Pesticide Levels in Food Found to Be Low Once Again in Latest Report

Brian GermanAgri-Business, Industry

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has once again shown that pesticide levels on food remain low. USDA’s Pesticide Data Program (PDP) has found that 99 percent of food products tested were well within pesticide tolerance levels established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The 2020 PDP Annual Report also shows that nearly a third of fruits and vegetables examined had no measurable levels of pesticides at all.

“This Annual Summary report shows that when pesticide residues are found on foods, they are nearly always at levels below the tolerance, or maximum amount of a pesticide allowed to remain in or on a food,” the report states. “USDA uses the data to better understand the relationship of pesticide residues to agricultural practices and to implement USDA’s Integrated Pest Management objectives. USDA also works with U.S. growers to improve agricultural practices and to facilitate the adoption of integrated pest management techniques, including judicious use of pesticides, throughout the food supply chain.”

Pesticide Levels

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) sampled foods from California, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and Washington. The states represent roughly half the U.S. population and substantial producers of fruit and vegetables. A total of 9,600 samples were collected in 2020, with nearly 60 percent being domestic products and nearly 35 percent being imports. The majority of food items tested were fresh fruits and vegetables. However, a total of 1,736 samples were processed food items.

The latest report marks the 30th year of the program. Since it first began, a total of 126 commodities have been tested for acceptable pesticide levels. Food items such as fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, dairy, meat, poultry, grains, fish, rice, specialty products and water were reviewed as part of the report. More than 310,000 samples have been tested since the PDP began issuing the report back in 1991.