The annual analysis of pesticide residues in domestic and imported foods, with the results for fiscal year 2015, showed 98 percent of tested foods produced in the United States do not violate federal limits.

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Of the 835 domestic food samples tested from 39 states, almost half, 49.8 percent, were completely free of pesticides for the period from Oct. 1, 2014, through Sept. 30, 2015, according to the annual report released Monday by the Food and Drug Administration. The agency has been performing sampling and producing the report every year since 1987.

The Environmental Protection Agency sets the allowable limits and the FDA is responsible for enforcing those tolerances for domestic foods shipped in interstate commerce and foods imported into the U.S.

Fifteen of the U.S. food samples had pesticide residues in excess of the legal limits, representing less than 2 percent of the domestic samples tested. The remainder of the samples of U.S. foods had residues within allowable levels. Fruits and vegetables accounted for 58.7 percent of domestic samples.

“Because the violation rates of import samples are generally higher than for domestic samples, the FDA tests more imported commodities than domestic,” according to the annual report. “In its regulatory pesticide residue monitoring program, the FDA selectively monitors a broad range of imported and domestic commodities.”

The FDA analyzed 4,737 foods from 111 foreign countries during FY 2015. Of those samples, 444, or 9.3 percent, had pesticide residues in excess of allowable limits. Overall, 90 percent of the foreign foods tested were within allowable U.S. limits.

However, the imported foods did better than U.S. foods in terms of being completely free of pesticide residues, with 56.8 percent of them in that category.

“FDA’s monitoring is not random or statistically designed; rather, emphasis is given to the sampling of commodities most frequently consumed or imported, commodities and places of origin with a history of violations, and to a lesser extent, larger-size shipments,” according to the report summary.

“Historically, the violation rate of import samples is 3 to 5 times higher than the rate for domestic samples. For example, from FY 2011 to 2014 the violation rate for domestic samples ranged from 1.4 percent to 2.8 percent, whereas the rate for import samples ranged from 7.1 percent to 12.6 percent.”

Specifics for pesticides and commodities
In addition to its standard pesticide residue testing, FDA conducted a focused sampling for pesticide residues in domestically produced game meats in relation to an ongoing audit in the European Union.

“None of the 17 game meat samples contained pesticide chemical residues, with the exception of one sample of elk that contained DDT below the FDA action level,” according to the report.

Game meat tested and the number of samples collected were: bison six samples; elk four samples with 0.029 ppm DDT found in one sample; rabbit three samples; and venison four samples.

The FDA had the ability to detect 696 pesticides and industrial chemicals for the FY 2015 testing program. Of those chemicals, residues of 207 different pesticides were actually found in the samples analyzed.

Eleven pesticide chemical residues found in FY 2015 had not been previously detected in the FDA regulatory pesticide monitoring program. Those are 11 residues, in order of frequency of detection along with the number of samples in which they were found are:

  • The Fluxapyroxad 6
  • Temephos 2
  • Carfentrazone ethyl ester 1
  • Cyflumetofen 1
  • Ethiprole 1
  • Fenpyrazamine 1
  • Flumioxazin 1
  • Mefenacet 1
  • Sebuthylazine 1
  • Sulprofos 1
  • Thiodicarb 1

Fresh produce commodities made up the majority of the imported foods with the most pesticide residues. FDA flags imported commodities for “special attention” in the next fiscal year based on current residue results.

For FY 2015, imported commodities selected for special attention in FY 2016 had to have had at least 20 samples analyzed or a minimum of three violations, and a violation rate of 10 percent or higher.

Dozens of imported foods met those criteria. The top 10 in terms of violation rates, listed here with the commodity, number of samples tested and percent of violations, are:

  • Dragon fruit and dragon fruit juice, 5 samples, 80 percent in violation;
  • Taro or dasheen, 10 samples, 42.9 percent in violation;
  • Wolfberry, 10 samples, 40 percent in violation;
  • Cocoa beans and products, 16 samples, 31.3 percent in violation;
  • Jack fruit and jack fruit juice, 24 samples, 29.2 percent in violation;
  • Cilantro, 22 samples, 27.3 percent in violation;
  • Prickle pear fruit and juice, 44 samples, 27.3 percent in violation;
  • Cabbage, 15 samples, 26.7 percent in violation;
  • Mushrooms, 86 samples, 26.7 percent in violation; and
  • Parsley, 18 samples, 22 percent in violation.

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