Each year USDA releases their Pesticide Data Program report where they release findings of their sampling/testing program for pesticides in produce. The overwhelming majority of samples were within EPA tolerances. A very small percentage, 0.53%, had levels above that.
- In 2015, over 99 percent of the samples tested had residues well below the tolerances established by the EPA with 15 percent having no detectable pesticide residue.
- Residues exceeding the established tolerance were detected in 0.53 percent (54 samples) of the total samples tested (10,187 samples). Of these 54 samples, 18 were imported (33 percent) and 36 were domestic (67 percent).
- The samples containing pesticides that exceeded established tolerances included: 1 sample of fresh cherries, 4 samples of cucumbers, 3 grape samples, 3 samples of green beans, 1 peach sample, 1 pear sample, 8 samples of spinach, 25 samples of strawberries, 2 tomato samples, and 6 samples of watermelon. (Appendix I of the report has the levels).
USDA - Pesticide Data Program
In 1991, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), was charged with designing and implementing the Pesticide Data Program (PDP) to collect data on pesticide residues in food. PDP provides high quality data on residues in food, particularly foods most likely consumed by infants and children.
This 25th Pesticide Data Program summary presents results for samples collected in 2015. This information is provided to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Before a company can sell or distribute any pesticide in the United States of America, EPA must review studies on the pesticide to determine that it will not pose unreasonable risks to human health or the environment. Once EPA has made that determination, it will license or register that pesticide for use in strict accordance with label directions.
Before allowing a pesticide to be used on a food commodity, EPA sets limits on how much of a pesticide may be used on food during growing, processing, and storage, and how much can remain on the food that reaches the consumer. Government inspectors monitor food in interstate commerce to ensure that these limits are not exceeded. EPA also sets standards to protect workers from exposure to pesticides on the job.
AMS’s Monitoring Programs Division (MPD) is responsible for the administration, planning, and coordination of day-to-day PDP operations. MPD meets regularly with EPA and other Government agencies to establish program priorities and direction. In 2015, sampling and/or testing program operations were carried out with the support of 10 States: California, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and Washington. These States had a prominent role in program planning and policy setting, particularly policies relating to quality assurance.
PDP commodity sampling is based on a rigorous statistical design that ensures the data are reliable for use in exposure assessments and can be used to draw various conclusions about the Nation’s food supply. The pesticides and commodities to be included each year in the sampling are selected based on EPA data needs and take into account the types and amounts of food consumed by infants and children. The number of samples collected by the States is apportioned according to that State’s population. Samples are randomly chosen close to the time and point of consumption (i.e., distribution centers rather than at the farm gate) and reflect what is typically available to the consumer throughout the year. Samples are selected without regard to country of origin, variety, growing season, or organic labeling.
Fresh and processed fruit and vegetables accounted for 96.9 percent of the total 10,187 samples collected in 2015. Other samples collected included peanut butter, 3.1 percent. Fresh and processed fruit and vegetables tested during 2015 were: apples, cherries (fresh and frozen), cucumbers, grapefruit, grapes, green beans, lettuce, nectarines, oranges, peaches, pears, potatoes, spinach, strawberries, sweet corn (fresh and frozen), tomatoes, and watermelon. Domestic samples accounted for 76.1 percent of the samples while 23.0 percent were imports, and 0.9 percent were of unknown origin. Because PDP data are mainly used for risk assessments, PDP laboratory methods are geared to detect the lowest possible levels of pesticide residues, even when those levels are well below the tolerances established by EPA. Prior to testing, PDP analysts washed samples for 15-20 seconds with gently running cold water as a consumer would do; no chemicals, soap, or any special wash was used. Results for more than 2 million analyses were reported by the laboratories in 2015 and are too numerous to be included in their entirety in this summary. The PDP database file for 2015 and annual summaries/database files for previous years are available on the PDP website at http://www.ams.usda.gov/pdp or by contacting MPD.
In 2015, over 99 percent of the samples tested had residues well below the tolerances established by the EPA with 15 percent having no detectable pesticide residue. Appendices B through D
Pesticide Data Program—Annual Summary, Calendar Year 2015 provide a distribution of residues by pesticide for the commodities tested. Residues exceeding the established tolerance were detected in 0.53 percent (54 samples) of the total samples tested (10,187 samples). Of these 54 samples, 18 were imported (33 percent) and 36 were domestic (67 percent).
Residues with no established tolerance were found in 3.9 percent (394 samples) of the total samples tested (10,187 samples). Of these 394 samples, 259 were domestic (65.7 percent), 129 were imported (32.8 percent), and 6 were of unknown origin (1.5 percent).
PDP is a voluntary program and is not designed for enforcement of tolerances. However, PDP informs the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and EPA if residues detected exceed the EPA tolerance or have no EPA tolerance established.
PDP laboratories also test foods for low levels of environmental contaminants that are no longer used in the United States, but due to their persistence in the environment, particularly in soil, can be taken up by plants. Results for environmental contaminants in all commodities are listed in Appendix D. More information on results is provided in the Sample Results and Discussion section of this summary.
PDP continually strives to improve methods for collecting, testing, and reporting data. These data are freely available to EPA and other Federal and State agencies charged with regulating and setting policies on the use of pesticides and to the public by hard copy, Internet, or custom reports generated by MPD. Additional copies of the PDP Annual Summary may be obtained by mailing the form provided at the end of the Summary.