October 1, 2018
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today issued the results of its FY 2016 Pesticide Residue Monitoring Program. The agency tested for 711 pesticides and industrial chemicals across 7,413 total samples and the results were consistent with previous years’ findings. The majority of samples were below the tolerance levels set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
For the pesticides that were tested for in FY2016, over 99% of the 2,670 domestic and 90% of the 4,276 imported human foods samples were found to be in compliance with federal pesticide residue standards. No detectable levels of pesticide residues were found in 52.9% of domestic and 50.7% of imported human food samples analyzed. Less than 1% of domestic samples and less than 10% of imported samples were found to be violative. Samples are violative if they have pesticide chemical residues above the EPA tolerance or pesticide chemical residues for which the EPA has not established a tolerance or a tolerance exemption for the specific pesticide/commodity combination.
Similarly, we found no detectable levels of pesticide chemical residues in 43.0% of the 242 domestic animal food samples collected, nor in 54.7% of the 225 imported animal food samples. Less than 2% of the animal food samples were found to contain violative pesticide chemical residues. Most of these violations concerned pesticides for which no tolerance has been established.
In FY2016, the FDA for the first time also conducted a special assignment using a new test method for glyphosate and glufosinate in four commodities: corn, soybeans, milk and eggs. Of the 760 samples tested for the glyphosate and glufosinate assignment (consisting of 274 grain corn, 267 soybean, 113 milk, and 106 egg samples), 53.7% had no detectable residues of the pesticides. None of the milk and egg samples had any detectable glyphosate or glufosinate residues, and all the residues detected in the corn and soybean samples were below the tolerance levels set by the EPA.
When the FDA identifies a violative sample in a domestic food, a Warning Letter may be issued to the responsible grower/manufacturer and other actions may be taken, such as seizure to remove the food from commerce, or injunction to correct the cause of the violation. When a violative sample is identified in an imported food, shipments may be refused entry into U.S. commerce and firms may be listed on an Import Alert. FDA may detain the food without physical examination (i.e., “Detention Without Physical Examination”) if there is information that future shipments of the food appear to be violative.
Pesticides combat pests that may negatively affect crop yield. Certain trace amounts of pesticides, or pesticide chemical residues, may remain in or on some foods. The role of the FDA is to ensure that pesticide chemical residues in or on foods comply with the limits the EPA establishes based on the applicable federal safety standard.
The FDA employs a three-fold strategy to enforce the EPA’s tolerances for pesticide chemical residues. In its regulatory pesticide residue monitoring program, the FDA monitors a broad range of domestic and imported commodities. The FDA may also carry out focused sampling for commodities or pesticides of interest, as we did for glyphosate and glufosinate. In addition to these two regulatory approaches, the 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.
The FDA takes very seriously the responsibility it shares with EPA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to keep foods free of unsafe levels of pesticide chemical residues. The findings in this report demonstrate that overall levels of pesticide chemical residues measured by the FDA are below EPA’s tolerances, and therefore at levels that are not concerning for public health.
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