USDA Reports Pesticide Residues Well Below Benchmark Levels

Spraying PeanutsMore than 99% of food samples tested in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Data Program had pesticide residue levels well below the acceptable levels established by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Additionally, data from the USDA’s 2018 PDP summary released at the end of 2019 revealed 47.8% of samples tested had no detectable pesticide residue at all.

“This is great news; however, it comes as no surprise,” said Ben Rowe, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation national affairs coordinator. “Thanks to farmers’ use of integrated pest management and other agricultural best management practices, the U.S. is home to the safest, most affordable and abundant food supply in the world.”

The PDP tested a range of domestic and imported foods, with a focus on foods consumed by infants and children. The report stated samples were chosen randomly, close to the time and point of consumption, such as at distribution centers.

Farm commodities tested included fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, dairy products, meat, poultry, grains, fish, rice, specialty products and water. Samples reflected what is available year-round.

Prior to testing, PDP analysts rinsed samples for 15 to 20 seconds with gently running cold water, as a consumer would do. No chemical, soap or special wash was used.

“The annual pesticide survey and testing are important, because they continually check and reinforce the safety of the American food supply, and the reputation of the American farmer,” Rowe explained.

Results are reported monthly to the Food and Drug Administration and EPA as testing takes place throughout the year. If a test identifies residue levels that could pose a public safety risk, the information is communicated to those agencies immediately.

The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service performs the PDP annually. The EPA relies on PDP data to conduct risk assessments and set its benchmark residue levels for pesticides on foods.

“Farmers use crop protection judiciously to mitigate potential damage from pests and disease to ensure bountiful yields.” Rowe said. “Using the fewest inputs necessary not only makes good economic sense for a farmer, but also makes environmental sense. The use of crop protection enables farmers to utilize practices like no-till, cover crops and other practices that capture carbon and have added environmental benefits.”

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