2021 FDA Science Forum
Monitoring of Pesticide Chemical Residues in Domestic and Imported Human Foods (FY 2009 to 2017)
Contributing OfficeCenter for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition
Growers often use pesticides to protect their crops from insects, weeds, fungi, and other pests. U.S. regulators help ensure that food produced with the use of pesticides is safe to eat by setting allowable levels called tolerances for pesticide chemical residues and by monitoring foods in the market to determine if those levels are being met. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for enforcing pesticide chemical residue tolerances established by the Environmental Protection Agency for food.
FDA publishes annual reports summarizing the results of FDA pesticide testing. In order to identify trends not apparent in annual reports, pesticide chemical residue findings of 56,593 samples (13,718 domestic and 42,875 import) collected over approximately 10 years from the FDA pesticide regulatory monitoring program were analyzed. The overall violation rate during Fiscal Year (FY) 2009-2017 was 2.0% for domestic samples, 9.1% for import samples, and 7% for all samples combined. Annual violation rates for this time period ranged from 0.9-3.8% for domestic samples and 4.0-12.6% for import samples. The majority of the violations for both domestic and import samples are due to “no tolerance” violations, which occur when there is no U.S. tolerance established for a specific pesticide/commodity pair. Targeting of samples with higher historic violation rates appears to be a major contributor to the increase in the overall import violation rate observed between FY 2009-2017, while methodological improvements in FDA pesticide detection capability did not appear to be a major factor. The difference between import and domestic violation rates is largest for grains, mainly due to import violations and differences in global tolerances for rice. Ginseng, sweet basil, capsicum spice, cilantro, and prickly pear are the top five violative commodities and are frequently identified in FDA’s annual reports as imports warranting special attention. Trends identified in the study could help FDA to plan future sampling more efficiently by targeting import commodities warranting special attention while maintaining coverage for commodities that are highly consumed, in order to fulfill FDA’s mission to protect public health.