The California Department of Pesticide Regulation ordered this lot of 144 pallets of longans to be destroyed after laboratory tests detected illegal residues. Photo courtesy California DPR.
A report from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation shows that 96% of fresh produce tested in 2016 showed little or no pesticide residues on produce sold in the state.
According the annual report, 3,585 samples were taken from 161 different fruits and vegetables at retailers, wholesale markets, distribution centers and farmers’ markets.
“Once again, this report shows that California consumers can have high confidence in the fresh fruit and vegetables available to them at stores,” Brian Lehy, director of the California Department of Pesticide Regulation, said in a news release. “A strong regulatory program gives guidance to the proficient farmers and pesticide applicators that grow the fruits and vegetables that are part of a healthy diet.”
California produce accounted for 24% of the samples. The rest came from other states and countries. Most of the items with illegal pesticide residues — either exceeding tolerance limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency or testing positive for pesticides without established tolerances — were imports. Besides bok choy from the U.S., illegal residues were most common in peas from Guatemala, longon from Vietnam, ginger and lychees from China and cactus pads from Mexico.
The pesticide regulation department, however, said illegal amounts of residue on an item doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a potential health concern.
According to the report:
- 39% of produce samples had no detectable pesticide residues
- 57% had residues within legal limits
- 4% had illegal amounts
Each year, the department’s scientists and staff test for nearly 400 types of pesticides through the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Although there was a “public concern” about the herbicide Glyphosate in 2016, tests found no illegal Glyphosate residues on any of the produce, according to the release.
Organic produce, which can be treated with non-synthetic pesticides, was also tested. Of the 148 organic produce samples tested, only two contained illegal amounts of pesticides, according to the report.
In 2016, the pesticide department levied a total of $45,000 to fines to four companies. This year, Walmart faced a $17,000 fine for acorn squash, limes, cilantro and mangoes with higher pesticide levels than allowed, and Los Angeles-based Marquez Produce received a $105,000 fine — by far the largest in recent years — for certain squash and pepper and cactus pads.
A full list is available on the Department of Pesticide Regulation website.