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Food safe from pesticide residue

Data from the most recent Pesticide Data Program show that the U.S. food supply is safe when it comes to pesticide chemical residues.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has posted data from the 2014 Pesticide Data Program (PDP) Annual Summary, which confirms that the overall pesticide chemical residues found on the foods tested are at levels below the tolerances established by the Environmental Protection Agency and do not pose a safety concern.

The 2014 summary shows that more than 99% of the products sampled through PDP had residues below the set EPA tolerances. Residues exceeding the tolerance level were detected in 0.36% of the samples tested. The PDP pesticide residue results are reported to the Food & Drug Administration and EPA through monthly reports.  In instances where a finding may pose a safety risk, PDP immediately notifies FDA and EPA.  EPA has determined that extremely low levels of these residues are not a food safety risk, and the presence of such residues does not pose a safety concern.

Each year, USDA and EPA work together to identify foods to be tested on a rotating basis. In 2014, surveys were conducted on a variety of foods, including fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, oats, rice, infant formula and salmon. AMS partners with cooperating state agencies to collect and analyze pesticide chemical residue levels on selected foods. EPA uses data from PDP to enhance its food safety programs and help evaluate dietary exposure to pesticides.

“Each year, the Pesticide Data Program uses rigorous sampling and the most current laboratory methods to test a wide variety of domestic and imported foods. Again, the resulting data in this year’s report give consumers confidence that the products they buy for their families are safe and wholesome,” said Dr. Ruihong Guo, deputy administrator of the AMS Science & Technology Program.

Dr. Susan Mayne, director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety & Applied Nutrition, noted that "PDP plays an essential role in ensuring the safety of the U.S. food supply. Under the Federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act, the FDA has authority to take enforcement action when a food bears or contains unlawful pesticide chemical residues. By providing an accurate assessment of pesticide levels in the most commonly consumed commodities in America, the PDP generally confirms the U.S. food supply is safe with respect to pesticide chemical residues.”

Jim Jones, EPA assistant administrator for chemical safety and pollution prevention, said, “EPA is committed to a rigorous, science-based and transparent regulatory program for pesticides that continues to protect people’s health and the environment. The PDP is an important part of the basis for our work to evaluate pesticide exposure from residues in food.”

Since its inception, PDP has tested 113 commodities, including fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, dairy, meat, poultry, grains, fish, rice, specialty products and water. The data are a valuable tool for consumers, food producers and processors, chemical manufacturers, environmental interest groups and food safety organizations.

This information, along with an explanatory guide for consumers, can be found at www.ams.usda.gov/pdp.

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