Nov 7, 2017
Minimal pesticide residue violations listed by FDA

A new Food and Drug Administration report indicates 98 percent of domestic and 90 percent of imported foods tested in fiscal year 2015 met federal pesticide residue limits.

The 47-page report, available online, examined pesticide residues in domestic and imported food tested between Oct. 1, 2014 and Sept. 30, 2015.

The annual analysis of pesticide residues in domestic and imported foods, with the results for fiscal year 2015 showing 98 percent of tested foods produced in the United States do not violate federal limits.

Of the 835 domestic food samples tested from 39 states, almost half, 49.8 percent, were completely free of pesticides for the period from Oct. 1, 2014, through Sept. 30, 2015, according to the annual report released Nov. 6 by the FDA. The agency has been performing sampling and producing the report every year since 1987.

The EPA sets the allowable limits and the FDA is responsible for enforcing those tolerances for domestic foods shipped in interstate commerce and foods imported into the U.S.

Fifteen of the U.S. food samples had pesticide residues in excess of the legal limits, representing less than 2 percent of the domestic samples tested. The remainder of the samples of U.S. foods had residues within allowable levels. Fruits and vegetables accounted for 58.7 percent of domestic samples.

“Because the violation rates of import samples are generally higher than for domestic samples, the FDA tests more imported commodities than domestic,” according to the annual report. “In its regulatory pesticide residue monitoring program, the FDA selectively monitors a broad range of imported and domestic commodities.”

The FDA analyzed 4,737 from 111 foreign countries during FY 2015. Of those samples, 444, or 9.3 percent, had pesticide residues in excess of allowable limits. Overall, 90 percent of the foreign foods tested were within allowable U.S. limits.

However, the imported foods did better than U.S. foods tested in terms of being completely free of pesticide residues, with 56.8 percent of them in that category.

The agency said no pesticide chemical residues were found in 49.8 percent of the domestic and 56.8 percent of imported food samples.

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. 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.

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).

Fruit and vegetable samples are collected at terminal markets and large chain store distribution centers from which food commodities are supplied to supermarkets and grocery stores. Sampling at these locations allows for residue measurements that include pesticides applied during crop production and those applied after harvest (such as fungicides, growth regulators, and sprouting inhibitors) and takes into account residue degradation while food commodities are in storage.

Participation as a PDP sampling site is voluntary, which sets it apart from State and Federal enforcement programs. In 2015, over 600 sites granted access and provided information, including site volume data, to sample collectors.

Voluntary cooperation is important to PDP and makes it possible to adjust sampling protocols in response to fluctuations in food distribution and production. Pesticides screened by PDP include those with current registered uses for the commodity being tested and compounds for which toxicity data and preliminary estimates of dietary exposure indicate the need for more extensive residue data.

The FDA listed a table of imported commodities that the agency said may warrant “special attention” in future tests. That group of commodities had at least 20 samples analyzed or with a minimum of three violations, and had a violation rate of 10 percent or higher.

Imported fruit and vegetable items on that list included:

  • Cabbage: 15 samples analyzed, violation rate of 26.7 percent
  • Cilantro: 22 samples analyzed, violation rate of 27.3 percent
  • Mushroom: 86 samples analyzed, violation rate of 26.7 percent
  • Nectarine fruit/juice: 47 samples analyzed, violation rate of 10.6 percent
  • Parsley: 18 samples analyzed, violation rate of 22.2 percent
  • Peas: 68 samples analyzed, violation rate of 13.2 percent
  • Peppers, hot: 293 samples analyzed, violation rate of 10.9 percent
  • Pineapple fruit/juice: 39 samples analyzed, violation rate of 15.4 percent
  • Radish: 21 samples analyzed, violation rate of 19.1 percent
  • Rambutan: 14 samples analyzed, violation rate of 21.4 percent
  • Scallions and shallots: 21 samples analyzed, violation rate of 19.1 percent
  • Squash (Mexico): 73 samples analyzed, violation rate of 15.1 percent
  • Strawberries fruit/juice: 89 samples analyzed, violation rate of 15.7 percent.

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