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CA Fines Six Firms for Selling Pesticide-Tainted Imported Produce

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) has fined six companies that ignored warnings and repeatedly sold imported fruits and vegetables with illegal pesticide residues to predominantly ethnic minority customers.

According to an agency statement released July 28, the fines range from $10,000 to more than $20,000 for violating pesticide laws and potentially endangering consumers.

CA tainted produce

Imported cactus leaves quarantined by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation.

The firms were cited for selling lychees, cactus pears and leaves, tomatillos, longan, taro root, and other items imported from Mexico, China, Taiwan and Thailand.

“These companies were importing and selling produce to stores that primarily cater to California’s ethnic communities. They were given ample opportunities to change their methods but chose not to do so,” said Brian Leahy, DPR director. “We protect all Californians and will not stand by and watch as companies gamble with people’s health and flout our laws. This action is a reminder that we are serious about protecting all consumers from adverse risk of pesticides.”

The six companies being fined are:

  • Top Quality Produce Inc. of La Puente, CA, will pay $10,000. On five separate occasions, the company sold produce such as Longan imported from Thailand, Burdock Root imported from Taiwan and Lychees imported from China with illegal pesticide residues. The produce was sold between November 2013 and July 2014.
  • Yi Bao Produce Group of Vernon, CA, will pay $15,000. On seven separate occasions, the company sold produce imported from China such as Ginger, Taro Root, Longan and Fragrant Pear with illegal pesticide residues. The produce was sold between March 2013 and September 2014.
  • Primary Export International Inc. of South San Francisco, CA, will pay $9,000. On five separate occasions, the company sold produce imported from China, including Longan and Lychees with illegal pesticide residues. The produce was sold between June 2013 and August 2014.
  • Marquez Produce of Los Angeles will pay $21,000. On seven separate occasions, the company sold produce imported from Mexico, such as Cactus Leaves, Tomatillos and Squash, with illegal pesticide residues. The produce was sold between April 2013 and May 2014.
  • La Sucursal Produce Inc. of Los Angeles will pay $12,000. On five separate occasions, the company sold produce imported from Mexico, such as Tomatillos, Cactus Pears and Cactus Leaves, with illegal pesticide residues. The produce was sold between August 2013 and July 2014.
  • V&L Produce, Inc. of Vernon, CA, will pay $6,000. On four separate occasions, the company sold produce imported from Mexico, such as Purslane, Cactus Leaves and Mexican Squash, with illegal pesticide residues. The produce was sold between April 2013 and October 2014.

Since 2013, DPR has repeatedly found imported produce for sale in California that exceeds U.S. pesticide limits. This includes Cactus Pads imported from Mexico that were tainted with an organophosphate-based pesticide which was banned by the U.S. EPA more than 30 years ago because of health concerns. (International countries may have pesticides limits that differ from the U.S., but produce sold in California must meet U.S. limits).

DPR inspectors traced this tainted produce back to these six import companies. In each case, DPR warned the importers about the risk of selling such produce in California. However, subsequent investigations showed that the companies continued to import produce from the same suspect sources and sell the tainted food in California. When illegal pesticide residues were found, DPR immediately ordered the produce destroyed and/or quarantined.

The full list for enforcement actions for illegal pesticide residues can be found here.

DPR conducts statewide inspections of farmers markets, chain stores, distribution centers and other sellers as part of its Residue Monitoring Program. Under this program, DPR randomly selects and tests fruits and vegetables to ensure they do not contain pesticide residues higher than the trace levels legally allowed.

The DPR Pesticide Reside Monitoring Program is the most extensive program of its kind in the nation. It annually collects about 3,500 samples of more than 170 kinds of produce from wholesale and retail stores, farmers markets and other outlets. The department collects produce and samples locations that reflect California’s diverse population.

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© Food Safety News
  • Buy Local

    The fines seem small. Cost of doing business. For any of this to matter, the fines are going to have to hurt enough to actually be a deterrent.

    • Gary

      True.

    • Sxxxx Wxxxx

      Not to mention that the public was allowed to be exposed to this neurotoxic, nephrotoxic, teratogen, for years instead of testing and restricting repeat offenders…!?

  • Daniel B. Cohen

    Oddly enough FSMA regulations do not cover this and other chemical hazards, despite the clear language of the statute to:

    (A) set forth those procedures, processes, and practices that the Secretary determines to minimize the risk of serious adverse health consequences or death, including procedures,
    processes, and practices that the Secretary determines to be reasonably necessary to prevent the introduction of known or reasonably foreseeable biological, chemical, and physical hazards, including hazards that occur naturally, may be unintentionally introduced, or may be intentionally introduced, including by acts of terrorism, into fruits and vegetables, including specific mixes or categories of fruits and vegetables, that are raw agricultural commodities and to provide reasonable assurances that the produce is not adulterated under section 342 of this title…

    [Title 21 Food and Drugs page 133]

    The reason given for this was that such hazards are rare. The only justification for this conclusion on chemical, radiological and physical hazards was FDA’s own three page memo “Chemical, Physical and Radiological Hazards Associated with Produce” of May 29 2012. The criteria was the number of class I recalls associated with these agents between 1997 and 2011 (none).

    The memo has no references or discussion of whether this criteria is adequate.

    Therefore despite mountains of regulatory procedures, FSMA itself and its “foreign equivalents” are silent on these aspects of food safety and other agencies and laws will have to cover them.

    It seems like a strange gap to leave, particularly with the increased percentages of foreign produce and other foods entering the US, and the known identified cases of chemical contamination that have been caught in many countries.

  • Patricia Lorraine Ingersoll

    It won’t do any good fining these companies such small amounts. What they need to do, is stop the imports.

  • Frank S.

    No jail time? Being in the business the firms should be aware of the food safety regulations. The firms received prior warning. It should not be difficult to demonstrate intent. While I’m not totally familiar with CA laws, intentionally distributing contaminated food should be a felony.

    • Sxxxx Wxxxx

      …and subject to civil liability/disability where applicable…

  • JA

    1. Are these Firms wholesaler for Sea food City, S &F Market and 99 Cent?

    2. The fines are too small to prevent the Firms from selling Pesticide-Tainted Imported Produce.

  • Connie Snyder

    Just another example of how corporate capitalists are the tail that wags the dog. And we are sick pups to not make it central to EVERY election. We must rein in the corporatism-gone-wild. It is the biggest threat to mankind.

  • maryannela

    China, what do we expect from China? Absolutely nothing, I won’t buy food, dog toys or food, from China. They put a substance into their own baby formula that killed t heir babies, they sent over treats for dogs and cats that caused liver and kidney failure. They don’t about human life and I wonder why we accept anything from that barbaric country.