The vast majority of foods sampled for pesticides in the 2018 fiscal year contained residues within EPA tolerances, the Food and Drug Administration said in a report released Tuesday.
FDA found that 96.8% of domestic and 87.1% of imported human foods complied with federal standards, with no pesticide residues found in 47.1% of the domestic and 47.2% of the import samples.
The story was similar for animal food samples tested. Of the nearly 500 animal food samples tested, the agency found 96.2% of domestic and 96.5% of imported samples were compliant.
The findings “demonstrate that levels of pesticide chemical residues measured by the FDA generally are below EPA’s tolerances, and therefore at levels that are not concerning for public health,” the agency said.
Vegetables and fruits accounted for about 70% of the 1,448 domestic samples tested. Only 11.7% of the fruits tested — including fruit juices — did not have any residues. Three of the 281 samples had residues deemed “violative,” meaning they exceeded EPA tolerances or contained chemicals for which EPA has not set a tolerance or tolerance exemption.
In the vegetables category, FDA found no residues in 41.8% of the 687 samples analyzed; 40, or 5.8%, contained violative residues, including samples of okra, kale, string beans, radishes and hot peppers.
“In the commodity group of other food products, consisting largely of nuts, seeds, oils, honey, and spices, no residues were found in 73% of the 111 samples analyzed and only 3 (2.7%) samples contained violative residues,” the report said.
FDA conducted “focused sampling” in FY 2018 of animal-derived foods, sampling 215 products that mostly included milk, eggs and honey.
No violative residues were found, but FDA said it detected residues of five pesticide chemicals in domestic honey, mostly at trace levels.
“Of those, piperonyl butoxide is exempted from tolerances when used as a synergist with pesticides on growing crops,” the report said. “Coumaphos and amitraz are registered for use against Varroa mites in beehives. Dichlobenil and flonicamid are registered for use on a variety of fruits and vegetables and were likely detected in honey due to inadvertent contamination introduced by bees as they collect nectar from flowers.”
Meanwhile, CropLife America and more than 300 agriculture and conservation organizations signed a letter appealing to members of Congress to reject a recent proposal to overhaul federal pesticide regulations and ban the use of organophosate and neonicotinoid insecticides.
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“The legislation, as introduced, would undermine the work of EPA’s career scientists in the evaluation of pesticide safety and oversight of pesticide registration and use,” said Chris Novak, president and CEO of CLA, which represents pesticide makers.
The bill, introduced last month by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., includes provisions creating a process for petitioning the EPA to identify dangerous pesticides. The bill, called the Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act, also seeks to prevent EPA from issuing emergency exemptions and conditional registrations before they have gone through a complete health and safety review. "Our nation’s pesticide laws have not kept up to keep us safe," Udall said.
The legislation isn’t going anywhere this year, but it could provide a blueprint for legislative action in a future Congress.
Novak said the “risk-based approach” to regulating pesticides under the existing Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), ensures “that farmers have new tools to combat the weeds and insects that threaten the safety and productivity of our food supply.”
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