USDA: Pesticide levels in produce, other foods not a threat

January 13, 2016

Earlier this week the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its annual Pesticide Data Program (PDP) report, which analyzed data from produce and other food samples, and concluded that pesticide residues are not a food safety concern for the United States.

The PDP report included data from 10,619 food samples collected in 2014 and stated that pesticide residue levels were at or below tolerance levels set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and are low enough to pose no health risk for even infants and children. The report included the following samples:

  • 8,582 samples of fruits and vegetables
  • 314 samples of oats
  • 314 samples of rice
  • 1,055 samples of infant formula
  • 354 samples of salmon

In its 24th year, some are saying the report has become a “data dump” by a government agency and because the results have become so routine, reaction has been muted from consumer and other groups that typically weigh in on such topics.

One issue the was brought up by a group opposed to genetically engineered food, questioned why the USDA did not test for some pesticides like glyphosate, a herbicide used in field crops. According to the USDA, the reason is the testing method for fresh fruit and vegetables differs from that required to test for “broad spectrum” pesticides, metabolites and isomers. USDA’s mission with the Pesticide Data Program is to test fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, dairy products and other specialty products.

In a recent article, USDA’s administrators said the report could, in the future, grow to include the testing for residues of pesticides and herbicides in field crops if it had more funding. USDA officials also reported they needed more funding to test municipal water supplies, groundwater and bottled water. The agency discontinued those tests after 2013.

In all, the report for 2014 found that pesticide residue levels were at or below tolerance levels in all but 0.36% of the samples. That’s 38 problem scores out of 10,619 tests. The EPA is required to periodically re-evaluate pesticide registrations and tolerances to ensure that the scientific data remain up to date before the annual report is published.

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Category: Food Safety, Agriculture