In its most recent report, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation found illegal amounts of chemical residue on 4% of the samples it tested, with most violations on imported produce. The 2019 California Pesticide Residue Monitoring Program Report, released last week, shows that of 3,274 samples tested, 137 contained illegal pesticide residue (either a level of residue exceeding EPA’s limits for allowable pesticides or residue from a product not authorized for use on that crop).

The commodity with the highest number of violations was dragon fruit (25 of 41 samples, or 61%) followed by chayote (9 of 73, or 12%), and tomatillos (9 of 112, or 8%). Imported products, including these, accounted for 82% of all violations. 

Among products known to have been grown in California, 98% had no illegal pesticide residue. One strawberry sample contained enough residue of methomyl to be deemed a health risk. When such risks are identified, DPR traces the sample back to its point of origin and takes action to remove it and any other potentially contaminated products from the food supply. In addition, it has the authority to impose fines.

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DPR Director Val Dolcini said in a statement the Pesticide Residue Monitoring Program is “a helpful way to educate growers about what is and isn’t acceptable for use in California."

And, it’s also “useful as a deterrent to bad actors.”

In 2019, DPR imposed $175,435 in penalties against a company with a history of selling produce that exceeds accepted residue levels. DPR had found Marquez Produce, Inc. in violation of pesticide residue regulations 21 times in 2015-2016 and 14 times in 2017-2018. The company agreed to pay the fines in installments and as of this year has paid them in full.

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