USDA reports 99 percent of foods tested are below pesticide residue limits

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For its 31st Annual Report on Pesticide Residues in Foods, USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service has good news.

According to a report released Dec. 26, “In 2021, more than 99% of samples tested will have residues below the acceptable limits established by the EPA, and 24.0% will have detectable residues. There was no

The testing program, called the Pesticide Data Program (PDP), checked 10,127 samples in 2021. 94% of these samples were fresh and processed fruits and vegetables. Fresh and processed fruits and vegetables tested in 2021 include blueberries (fresh and frozen), broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, cauliflower, celery, eggplant, grape juice, green beans, peaches (fresh and frozen), pears, Plums, summer squash, sweet peppers, tangerines, watermelons and winter squash.

Corn grain and butter will also be tested in 2021, accounting for 4.1% and 1.7%, respectively, of the samples collected in 2021.

Domestic samples accounted for 67.8% of the samples, 30.8% were imported, 0.9% were mixed domestic, and 0.5% were of unknown origin.

Less than one percent (0.53) percent of the total 10,127 samples tested, or 54 samples, had unacceptable residues. Of these 54 samples, 29 were domestic, 24 were imported, and 1 was of unknown origin. Residues for which resistance had not been established were detected in 3.7% of the 10,127 samples tested, or 374 samples. Of these 374 samples, 220 were domestic, 150 were imported, and 4 were of unknown origin.

“The PDP is a voluntary program and is not designed to enforce tolerances. If any unacceptable residue is detected, PDP will notify the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and EPA of a putative tolerance violation,” the report states.

“Ultimately, if the EPA determines that a pesticide’s use is unsafe for human consumption, the EPA will take action such as amending pesticide label instructions, changing or revoking pesticide residue tolerances, or not registering new uses. We will reduce exposure to pesticides through action.”

Of primary concern when selecting foods to be tested is that the foods may be consumed by infants and children, who are more susceptible to pesticide residues than most adults.

“The USDA will use this data to better understand the relationship between pesticide residues and agricultural practices and to implement the USDA’s Integrated Pest Management Objectives. We are improving practices and promoting the adoption of holistic pest management techniques, including the judicious use of pesticides, throughout the food supply chain,” the report said.

“The PDP was not designed to enforce EPA pesticide residue limits. Rather, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for enforcing EPA tolerances. We will provide monthly reports of inspections and notify FDA if residues are detected to exceed EPA tolerances or if EPA tolerances have not been established.”

The PDP methodology involves working with state agencies representing census areas that contain nearly half of the US population. In 2021, the program tested samples from California, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Texas and Washington.

The number of samples collected by each state is distributed according to that state’s population.

Samples were randomly selected near the time and point of consumption at the distribution center rather than at the farm entrance and reflect what is typically available to consumers throughout the year. Or is selected regardless of organic display.

Because PDP data is used for risk assessment, the PDP Lab’s methods are tailored to detect very low levels of pesticide residues. Even if these levels are well below the tolerance limits established by the EPA. Before testing, the PDP analyst gently washed the sample under running water for 15-20 seconds, as a consumer would do. No chemicals, soaps or special cleaning agents are used.

PDP data will be provided to EPA for consideration in establishing and reviewing tolerances. The FDA monitors foods in interstate commerce to ensure they do not exceed these limits.

According to PDP, the full results of over 2.7 million analyzes represent each pesticide monitored in each commodity, too many to include in a summary report. However, the complete PDP database files for 2021, along with the annual summary and previous year’s database files, are available at the PDP website or via MPD ( usda).government

PDP data are also available using the PDP Database Search Tool, which can be accessed at

For more information on PDP, please visit the program website. For additional information on pesticides and foods, please visit the EPA website.

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