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FDA Releases FY 2020 Pesticide Residue Monitoring Report

Constituent Update

August 10, 2022

Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made available its annual Pesticide Residue Monitoring Program Report for Fiscal Year 2020 (FY 2020), summarizing findings from the program’s monitoring of human and animal foods in FY 2020.

From October 1, 2019, through September 30, 2020, the FDA tested for approximately 750 different pesticides and selected industrial compounds on 2,078 human food samples (316 domestic and 1,762 import samples) in its regulatory monitoring program. Agency staff collected domestic human food samples from 35 states and imported human food samples from 79 countries/economies. The findings show that the levels of pesticide residues measured by the FDA in the U.S. food supply are generally in compliance with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) pesticide tolerances.

Growers often use pesticides to protect their crops from insects, weeds, fungi, and other pests. Through this program, the agency ensures that FDA-regulated foods within U.S. commerce comply with the pesticide tolerances, or maximum residue levels, set by EPA to protect public health. The EPA establishes pesticide tolerances on the amount of a pesticide residue a food can contain, and the FDA is responsible for enforcing those tolerances for domestic foods shipped in interstate commerce and foods imported into the United States.

Overall Findings

In FY 2020, the FDA found that 96.8% of domestic and 88.4% of import human foods were compliant with federal standards, that is, the pesticide tolerances set by EPA. No pesticide residues were found in 40.8% of the domestic samples and 48.4% of the import samples. In the human food commodity groups, the violation rate in each group was higher for import samples. The higher violation rate affirms the validity of the sampling design in targeting import commodities more likely to contain violative pesticide residues.
The FDA also analyzed 102 animal food samples (40 domestic and 62 import samples) for pesticides. The agency found that 100% of domestic and 96.8% of import animal food samples were compliant with federal standards. No pesticide residues were found in 30.0% of the domestic and 48.4% of the import animal food samples.

The results from FY 2020 were similar to those from past years. However, the Covid-19 pandemic impacted the FDA’s sample collection and analysis for the FY 2020 report in the following ways:

  • Approximately 50% fewer human food samples and 70% fewer animal food samples were collected in FY 2020 compared with FY 2019.
  • More import samples were collected in FY 2020 relative to domestic samples than in previous years.
  • Domestic samples were not collected for the “Domestically Produced Animal Derived Foods” assignment (EU audit assignment).
  • Despite this impact, the results from samples collected and analyzed in FY 2020 demonstrated a rate of compliance similar to what has been shown in previous years.

Enforcement Strategy

The FDA employs a three-fold strategy to enforce the EPA’s pesticide tolerances in human and animal foods that includes continuous monitoring of domestic and import commodities for residues, conducting sampling surveys for specific commodities or pesticides, and analyzing collected samples for pesticides. In its regulatory pesticide residue monitoring program, the FDA selectively monitors a broad range of domestic and import commodities for residues of approximately 750 different pesticides and selected industrial compounds. The number of compounds (pesticides and industrial chemicals) in the analytical scope decreased slightly compared to FY 2019, as some pesticides and industrial chemicals that are obsolete or detected rarely were removed from the scope as part of FDA’s continuing modernization process.

The FDA may also carry out focused sampling surveys for specific commodities or selected pesticides of special interest. In addition, FDA monitors the levels of pesticide chemical residues in foods prepared for consumption in its Total Diet Study (TDS), an ongoing program that monitors contaminants and nutrients in the average U.S. diet.

Since 1987, the FDA has prepared annual pesticide reports to summarize the results of the agency’s pesticide residue monitoring program. They can be accessed on the FDA website.

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