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Pesticide report: California fruits, vegetables safe to eat

Western Farm Press

State samples domestic produce and imports for pesticide residues

What is in this article?:

  • 3 percent of organic produce had illegal pesticide residue levels
  • About 3,500 different samples taken across the state
  • Produce tested from grocery stores, farmers markets and food distribution centers
Farmers market

State regulators frequently test produce from a variety of sources, including farmer’s markets, for dangerous pesticide residues.

Produce testing under California’s stringent protocols revealed over 96 percent of the fruits and vegetables sampled for pesticide residues had little to none detectable.

A report released by the California Department of Pesticide Regulations (DPR) says the agency sampled about 3,500 different pieces of produce in 2014 and determined that a significant portion of it was safe for human consumption.

“This report further confirms that California’s vigorous pesticide regulatory program creates a reliable marketplace where consumers can have faith in their fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Brian Leahy, DPR director. “The pesticide rules and oversight we have in this state are effective at protecting the produce that we enjoy eating.”

According to the report, the year-round collections of produce from grocery stores, farmers markets, food distribution centers, and other outlets throughout California include certified “organic” fruits and vegetables. Of the products labeled “organic” – 234 total samples – about 3 percent had pesticide residue levels in violation of state labeling guidelines, according to Charlotte Fadipe, spokesperson for California DPR.

The produce is tested using state of the art equipment for 300 types of pesticides operated by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA).

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sets standards allowing fruits and vegetables to contain trace amounts of pesticide. The highest residue level that is allowed on that commodity is called a “tolerance.” Violations occur if a residue exceeds the tolerance for the specific fruit/vegetable, or if no tolerance has been established.

According to the report:

  • 93.43 percent of all produce samples (California grown and non-California grown) had pesticide residue levels that were legal i.e. at or below EPA tolerances.
  • Of those, 40.74 percent had no detectable residues at all, while 52.69 percent had residues detected within the legal level.
  • 1.07 percent of the samples had pesticide residues in excess of the established tolerance level.
  • An additional 5.5 percent of the samples had illegal traces of pesticides that were not approved for that commodity.

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