The U.S. Department of Agriculture choose this week before Christmas to release pesticide data for 2017 upon which it declared the U.S. food supply is “among the safest in the world.”

USDA’s Pesticide Data Program (PDP) Annual Summary for 2017 shows more than 99 percent of the samples tested had pesticide residues well below benchmark levels established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Each year, USDA and EPA work together to identify foods to be tested on a rotating basis. In 2017, tests were conducted on fresh and processed foods including fruits and vegetables as well as honey, milk and bottled water.

AMS then partners with cooperating state agencies to collect and analyze pesticide residue levels on selected foods. For over 25 years, USDA has tested a variety of commodities including fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, dairy, meat, poultry, grains, fish, rice, specialty products, and water.

USDA tests a wide variety of domestic and imported foods, with a strong focus on foods that are consumed by infants and children. EPA relies on PDP data to conduct dietary risk assessments and to ensure that any pesticide residues in foods remain at levels that EPA has determined to be safe. USDA uses the data to help U.S. farmers improve agricultural practice and to enhance the department’s Integrated Pest Management Program.

The annual pesticide residue results are reported to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and EPA in monthly reports as testing takes place throughout the year. FDA and EPA are immediately notified if a PDP test discovers residue levels that could pose a public safety risk.

The 2017 data and summary can be found on the Pesticide Data Program page on the AMS website. Printed copies may be obtained by contacting the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, Science and Technology Program, Monitoring Programs Division by email at

The pro-produce Alliance for Food and Farming warned the annual pesticide data will shortly be put to misuse.

“In the spring, consumers will be greeted with a very different message from activist groups who take this positive news from USDA and turn it into something, well, “dirty,” AFF said. “By manipulating and exaggerating the USDA PDP data, certain groups strive to cast doubt on the safety of favorite and more accessible fruits and veggies.

One of those “certain groups” is the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which has turned PDP data into its annual “Dirty Dozen” list since 2004.

“Fortunately, this tactic is losing traction and attention,” AFF says. “Among the reasons – peer-reviewed studies are showing that this negative and inaccurate messaging by activists results in low-income consumers stating they would be less likely to purchase any produce – organic or conventional. Further, the science-based information found at underscores the safety of all produce and the exceptional compliance level among farmers with the laws and regulations governing organic and conventional pesticide use.”

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