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Pesticide Data Program Shows Little Contamination in 2011

Sunday, March 3, 2013 23:50
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The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) released its latest summary of the Pesticide Data Program (PDP) last month.  In its 21st annual summary of the program, the AMS stated that for the calendar year 2011 overall pesticide residues found on foods tested were below the maximum legal residue levels set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to protect consumers and workers from exposure to pesticides.

In plain terms, the AMS stated in its report:  “The data reported by PDP corroborate that residues found in fruit and vegetables are at levels that do not pose risk to consumer health.”

According to the report, in 2011 11,894 food samples were tested by PDP; 32 samples (0.27 percent) exceeded the pesticide residue tolerance level set by the EPA and 399 samples (3.4 percent) were found to have residues with no established tolerance level.  Of the 32 samples with residue levels exceeding established tolerance levels, 25 were imported and 7 were domestic.  Of the 399 samples that tested positive for residues with no established tolerance, 280 were imported, 115 were domestic and 4 were of unknown origin.

The PDP sampling and testing program operations are carried out with the support of 13 states:  California, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin.  Testing occurs at both state laboratories and at the AMS National Science Laboratory and the USDA Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration Laboratory.

While it is not designed for enforcement of tolerances, PDP informs the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the EPA if residues exceeding the tolerance are detected or if no EPA residue tolerance has been established for a residue found.

Fresh and processed fruit and vegetables made up 82.3 percent of total samples tested in 2011.  The AMS estimated that 72.7 percent of samples were from U.S. sources, 22.8 percent were imports, 2.8 percent were of mixed origin and 0.7 percent were of unknown origin.  Those foods included: baby food (green beans, pears and sweet potatoes), canned beets, cabbage, cantaloupe, cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, hot peppers, lettuce, mushrooms, onions, orange juice, papayas, plums, snap peas, canned and frozen spinach, sweet bell peppers, tangerines and winter squash.

Commodities were also tested.  Samples are collected close to the point of consumption and are prepared with a process assigned to emulate consumer practices.

Drinking water samples collected at water treatment facilities in 3 states and from private domestic wells and school or childcare facilities showed low levels of detectable residues.  Residues found in drinking water were found in both drinking water and groundwater.  None exceeded established maximum Contaminant Levels, Health Advisories, Human Health Benchmarks for Pesticides, or Freshwater Aquatic Organism criteria.

The PDP was initiated in 1991, and plays an important role in the implementation of the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act, which directs the Secretary of Agriculture to collect pesticide residue data on foods that are highly consumed–particularly by infants and children.  Those foods include both domestic and imported canned and fresh vegetables, soybeans, eggs, dairy products and water.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency uses PDP data in its verification process to ensure all sources of exposure to pesticides meet the safety standards set forth in the Act.

Reports from previous years can be found on the AMS website.


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