After testing 12,845 samples of fresh produce and other foods, the U.S. Department of Agriculture once again says pesticide residues are not a safety issue.

That’s according to the latest Pesticide Data Program Annual Summary released Friday by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. The report details the analysis of samples collected in 2010. The data program has been ongoing since 1991.


The conclusion: as in other years, overall pesticide residues found on the foods tested well below the tolerances levels set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Only 0.25 percent of samples — fresh and processed fruit and vegetables, meat and poultry, grains, eggs, catfish, rice, specialty products, and treated and untreated drinking water — tested at levels exceeding EPA tolerances, according to the news release announcing the report.

No residues were found that exceeded tolerance levels for baby food (baby food was included for the first time in this report) and the EPA took some credit for that, issuing this statement: “The data confirms EPA’s success in phasing- out pesticides used in children’s food for safer pesticides and pest control techniques.  The very small amounts of pesticide residues found in the baby food samples were well below levels that are harmful to children.” 

The report’s release is sure to renew the long-standing debate between the Environmental Working Group, which uses information in the annual report to create its Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce — particularly its “Dirty Dozen” list — and the produce industry group Alliance for Food and Farming. The alliance worries that the Dirty Dozen lists dissuade people from buying conventionally grown fruit and vegetables.

The USDA, for its part, said the “age-old advice remains the same: eat more fruits and vegetables and wash them before you do so. Health and nutrition experts encourage the consumption of fruits and vegetables in every meal as part of a healthy diet.”

The full report, along with an explanatory guide, can be found here.