More than 20% of food sampled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2016 show no detectable pesticides and less than 0.5% of food had pesticide residue levels above Environmental Protection Agency limits.
“Again this year, the (Pesticide Data Program) results shows that the U.S. food supply is one of the safest in the world,” according to “What consumers should know,” a breakdown of the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service 2016 Pesticide Data Program Annual Summary.
Fresh and processed fruit and vegetables accounted for 90.3% of the 10,365 samples collected by the program in 2016, according to the 200-page report. The USDA said 502 of samples (4.8%) were organic.
According to the report, more than 99.5% of the samples had pesticide residues well below levels established by the EPA and 22% had no detectable residue. By frequency, the number of pesticides detected per sample was zero (22.7%), one (15.7%), two (18.7%), three (11%) and four (7.6%), five (6.2%) and six (5.1%).
The USDA report is one source of residue data interpreted by the Environmental Working Group to create its annual Dirty Dozen/Clean 15 ranking of fruits and vegetables. According to the USDA, the program “provides reliable data to help assure consumers that the food they feed themselves and their families is safe.”
The results are reported to the Food and Drug Administration and EPA in monthly reports as testing takes place throughout the year, according to a news release.
FDA and EPA would be immediately notified if a test discovered residue levels that could pose a public safety risk.
The USDA and EPA work together to identify foods to be tested on a rotating basis. The USDA AMS works with state agencies to collect and analyze pesticide residue levels on selected foods, according to the summary.
Fresh and processed fruit and vegetables tested in 2016 were: apples, applesauce, cherries (fresh/frozen), cranberries (fresh/frozen), cucumbers, grapefruit, grapes, green beans, lettuce, canned olives, oranges, pears, potatoes, spinach, strawberries, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes (fresh/canned).
Domestic samples accounted for 81.2%; 18.3% were imports, and 0.5% were of unknown origin.
Residues exceeding the tolerance were detected in 0.46%; of these 48 samples, 26 were domestic, 20 were imported, and 2 were of unknown origin.
The USDA said pesticides exceeding the tolerance were detected in 48 samples including one sample of fresh cherries, 11 samples of cucumbers, six grape samples, three samples of green beans, sixteen samples of spinach, three strawberry samples, five samples of sweet potatoes and three tomato samples. Of those 48 samples, 20 were reported as imported.
The USDA also said 273 samples were found to have pesticides for which no tolerance was established, including 256 fresh fruit and vegetable samples and 17 processed fruit/vegetable samples.
Those commodity samples with residues where no tolerance was established (and the number of pesticides found) were cherries (5), cranberries (1), cucumbers (5), grapefruit (1), grapes (3), green beans (8), lettuce (3), canned olives (3), pears (1), potatoes (3), spinach (20), sweet potatoes (2) and tomatoes(4). Of these 273 samples, 179 were domestic, 90 were imported, and 4 were of unknown origin.