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Pesticide report: Nearly half of the samples test residue free

The 2018 Pesticide Data Program Annual Summary finds more than 99% of samples had residue below benchmark levels.

More than 99% of the samples tested by USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service pesticide testing program had pesticide residues well below benchmark levels established by the Environmental Protection Agency, according to the 2018 Pesticide Data Program Annual Summary. The EPA sets these benchmarks to ensure that pesticide residues remain at levels that EPA has determined to be safe in or on foods for human consumption.

Each year, USDA and EPA work together to identify foods to be tested on a revolving basis by the PDP. AMS partners with cooperating state agencies to collect and analyze pesticide residue levels on a wide variety of domestic and imported foods, with a special focus on foods that are consumed by infants and children. For more than 25 years, USDA has tested a variety of commodities, including fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, dairy, meat, poultry, grains, fish, rice, specialty products and water. In 2018, tests were conducted on fruits and vegetables as well as rice, wheat flour and heavy cream. EPA relies on PDP data to conduct dietary risk assessments and to set its benchmark residue levels for pesticides in or on foods.

Here's a look at what was sampled in 2018:

  • Fresh and processed fruit and vegetables accounted for 87.8% of the total 10,545 samples collected in 2018. Other samples included rice, 1.8%; wheat flour, 7.2%; and heavy cream, 3.2%.
  • Fresh and processed fruit and vegetables tested during 2018 were asparagus, cabbage, cilantro, cranberries, garbanzo beans, green onions, kale, kiwi, mangoes, olives, peaches, plums, raisins, snap peas, spinach, strawberries, sweet peas and sweet potatoes.
  • Domestic samples accounted for 66.2% of samples, while 32.1% were imports, 1.3% were of mixed national origin and .4% were of unknown origin.

What's the testing process?

Prior to testing, samples were washed for 15 to 20 seconds with gently running cold water.

How many analyses were reported in 2018?

Results for more than 2 million analyses were reported in 2018 can be found at

More than 99% of samples had residues below EPA established tolerances. What about the other samples?

Residues exceeding the tolerance were detected in .78% of the total samples tested. Of these samples, 52.4% were domestic and 47.6% were imported. Nearly half, 47.8% of samples had no detectable pesticide residue. Residues with no established tolerance were found in 6.1% of the total samples tested.

The annual pesticide residue results are reported to the Food and Drug Administration and EPA in monthly reports as testing takes place throughout the year. FDA and EPA are notified at the time of discovery if a PDP test result identifies residue levels that could pose a public safety risk.

The 2018 data and summary can be found on the Pesticide Data Program page on the AMS website. Printed copies may be obtained by contacting the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, Science and Technology Program, Monitoring Programs Division by e-mail at

Source: USDA AMS, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset. 
TAGS: EPA Farm Life
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