Over 99 percent of produce products sampled by the USDA’s Pesticide Data Program (PDP) in 2012 had pesticide residues that fell below tolerance levels established by the Environmental Protection Agency, according to a report issued by the USDA on February 21. Only 0.53 percent of samples tested (63 of 11,893) had residues above the tolerance limit.
Since the beginning of the PDP program in 1991, it has tested over 112 food commodities on a rotating basis. In 2012, more than 86 percent of samples involved fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, including apple juice, avocados, baby food (applesauce, carrots, peaches, and peas), bananas, cantaloupe, cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, orange juice, papayas, plums, snap peas, summer squash, sweet bell peppers, tangerines, and winter squash. Other products tested were butter, water, and wheat.
Samples are collected by 10 participating states, representing about 50 percent of the U.S. population and all regions of the country.
“We are really pleased that USDA is able to do this report and show that these residues are at levels that are safe and well below EPA tolerance,” says Ray Gilmer, vice president for issues management and communications at United Fresh Produce. “Of course, you’d hope that you’d come back with zero residues on all products, but that’s very difficult to do. Every year there will be a very small amount out of tolerance, and those are usually mistaken applications, or weather conditions causing a product to drift from one field to another where it wasn’t intended.”
Since the PDP’s inception, residues above tolerance levels have never been found in more than 1 percent of products sampled. “Once again, this data shows that residues are not a concern for the public, and the industry is doing a pretty good job of following the labels and keeping to the regulations for each product,” Gilmer says.