The pesticide-free produce California consumers clamor continues to be verified through a state report highlighting regular residue testing of fruits and vegetables destined for public sale.
The annual survey report from the California Department of Pesticide Regulations (DPR) indicates that over 97 percent of the produce sold at grocery stores and farmers markets has little-to-no pesticide residue detectable.
Of that, nearly 40 percent of produce sampled had no detectible residues at all while the remainder fell within safe and legal tolerance levels.
The annual report is based on year-round collections of about 3,600 produce samples, including those labeled “organic.” The tests are conducted by DPR scientists at grocery stores, farmers markets, food distribution centers and other outlets in the state.
Equipment used tests for more than 350 different types of pesticides residues. These can include pesticides approved for use on organic fruits and vegetables.
Of the samples tested, 1.2 percent were found with residue levels exceeding established state and federal tolerance levels. Another 3.1 percent had illegal traces of chemicals not approved for that commodity.
In those cases the food products are confiscated and destroyed.
“These results demonstrate California’s commitment to food safety,” said DPR Director Brian Leahy.
Produce most frequently testing positive for illegal residue levels in 2015 included imported ginger from China and several commodities from Mexico including cactus pads, cactus fruits and limes. Spinach and kale from the United States was also confiscated and destroyed in 2015 because of pesticide residue levels in violation of the law.
Small, but significant numbers of repeat offenders are regularly inspected by state officials. According to the DPR, these cases tend to involve illegal residue levels discovered on imported produce from Mexico and other countries.
DPR will fine those out of compliance with legal thresholds.
In 2016 a California grape grower was fined $10,000 after residues of a pesticide not approved for grapes was found in a market. Further inspections of the vineyard found a similar residue of the product, which though is approved for use in other crops, is not allowed on grapes.