Most California Fresh Produce Samples Free Of Detectable Pesticide Residues

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) recently announced that the majority of produce it tested in 2012 had no detectable pesticide residues and posed no health risk to the public.


DPR tested 3,501 samples of different fruits and vegetables that were sold in farmers’ markets, wholesale and retail outlets, and distribution centers statewide. More than 160 different fruits and vegetables were sampled to reflect the different dietary needs of California’s diverse population.

“DPR’s pesticide monitoring program is probably the most robust and sophisticated program in the country,” said Brian R. Leahy, DPR Director. “Our monitoring should further reassure Californians that they need not be concerned about exposure to pesticides on fresh produce sold in the Golden State.”

Of all 3,501 samples collected in 2012:
■ 57.5% of the samples had no pesticide residues detected.
■ 38.9% of the samples had residues that were within the legal tolerance levels.
■ 2.7% of the samples had illegal residues of pesticides not approved for use on the commodities tested.
■ 0.9% of the samples had illegal pesticide residues in excess of established tolerances. A produce item with an illegal residue level does not necessarily indicate a health hazard.

While it is not unusual for a fruit or vegetable to contain trace amounts of different types of pesticides, the U.S. EPA sets strict limits, known as tolerances, for each type of produce. DPR’s Residue Monitoring Program staff carries out random inspections to verify that U.S. EPA limits are not exceeded. In 2012, 98% of all California-grown produce, sampled by DPR, was in compliance with the allowable limits.

The produce is tested in laboratories using state-of-the-art equipment operated by California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). In 2012, these scientists frequently detected illegal pesticide residues on:
■ Yardlong Beans from Mexico
■ Snow Peas from Guatemala
■ Chili Peppers from Mexico

Most of the 2012 illegal pesticide residues were on produce imported from other countries and contained very low levels (a fraction of a part per million). Although they did not pose a health risk, DPR took steps to remove the produce from sale. Anyone who sells produce with illegal amounts of pesticides can be fined. For example, a Santa Cruz grower was fined $15,000 in June 2013 after an illegal pesticide was detected on a strawberry crop.

California has been analyzing produce for pesticide residues since 1926. DPR works closely with state and federal agencies and has developed the most extensive pesticide residue testing program of its kind in the nation. The 2012 pesticide residue monitoring data and previous years are posted here.

Source: California Department of Pesticide Regulation