Pesticide residues detected on a variety of food products are below the tolerances established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and “do not pose a safety concern,” according to data released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). The 2011 Pesticide Data Program (PDP) Annual Summary, published on Feb. 22, 2013, analyzes pesticide residue levels on a number of products, including fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, milk, eggs, soybeans and water. The summary serves as an essential resource for federal agencies, especially the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), USDA and EPA. Most importantly, the report reminds consumers of the safety of the American food system and the overarching government regulations assuring the safe use of crop protection products. 

Of the 11,894 samples analyzed, PDP found residues exceeding EPA tolerance levels in only 0.27 percent. Pesticide residue tolerances, or limits, are set at levels 100 to 1,000 times lower than what is considered potentially dangerous for human health. PDP relies on advanced laboratory methods to detect pesticide residue levels far below the accepted tolerance established by EPA. Regularly conducted quality assurance controls ensure that the PDP’s scientific analysis methods improve each year. 

“The PDP Annual Summary confirms year after year that the use of crop protection products in the U.S. continues to be monitored under the highest scrutiny,” said Jay Vroom, president and CEO of CropLife America (CLA). “This resource helps build consumer confidence that the nutritious food grown in this country poses no safety risks with regards to any potential residue of a crop protection product. CLA supports the work of the PDP and acknowledges the USDA for continuing to conduct such a valuable program.”

Vroom also noted that the annual publication of the PDP summary creates an opportunity to remind consumers of some additional benefits of modern agriculture. “The Contribution of Crop Protection Products to the United State Economy, a study conducted by Mark Goodwin Consulting for CLA, shows that crop protection products help farmers to grow greater quantities of higher quality crops, resulting in food cost savings to U.S. consumers in the range of 47 percent,” he added.

“CLA commends the PDP for continuing to publish realistic, scientific information on the safety of the fruits, vegetables, grains and other products grown in this country,” noted Dr. Barbara Glenn, senior vice president of science & regulatory affairs for CLA. “The precise methods that PDP employs to conduct these tests each year demonstrates an ongoing commitment to accuracy and comprehensive analysis that is shared by CLA and our member companies. This valuable government monitoring program facilitates improvements in EPA risk assessments and encourages the development of increasingly effective, innovative products.”

USDA released the following statement regarding the 2011 summary results: “Consistent with guidance from health and nutrition experts – and as affirmed federal nutrition guidance that urges people to make half their plate fruits and vegetables – we encourage everyone to continue to eat more fruits and vegetables in every meal and wash them before you do so.”

The PDP was established by AMS in 1991 for the purpose of collecting data on pesticide residues found in food. Information collected by the PDP is sent to EPA to help the agency conduct important dietary risk assessments. USDA also uses this data in the development of Integrated Pest Management objectives. Since the program was initiated, 109 different commodities have undergone testing. A complete version of the 2011 Annual Summary is available at www.ams.usda.gov/pdp.