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Daily News Blog

01
Nov

U.S. Consumers Eating Pesticide Residues in Fruits and Vegetables, according to Government Report

(Beyond Pesticides, November 1, 2019) The recently published report Pesticide Residue Monitoring Program Fiscal Year 2017 Pesticide Report, from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), provides data on the levels of pesticide residues that show up on the foods U.S. consumers eat. The report adds fuel to public concern about contamination of the food supply, and to discussion in the scientific and advocacy communities about what is and is not safe for human health. It is also a sobering reminder of just how much chemical-intensive agriculture depends on pesticides, whether insecticides, herbicides, or fungicides.

This FDA report has been prepared annually since 1987 and is based on the agency’s Pesticide Residue Monitoring Program, which evaluates both domestically produced and imported human food samples, including fruit, vegetable, and animal products. As the report notes, “Three federal government agencies share responsibility for the regulation and oversight of pesticide chemical residues in or on food. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registers (i.e., approves) the use of pesticides and establishes tolerances for pesticide chemical residues in or on food resulting from the use of the pesticides. Tolerances are the EPA-established maximum residue levels (MRLs) of a specific pesticide chemical that is permitted in or on a human or animal food in the United States. EPA also provides a strong U.S. preventive controls program by licensing pesticide applicators, conducting pesticide use inspections, and establishing and enforcing pesticide labeling provisions. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) enforces tolerances in both import foods and domestic foods shipped in interstate commerce, except for meat, poultry, catfish, and certain egg products for which the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is responsible. FDA also monitors pesticide chemical residue levels in commodities representative of the U.S. diet by carrying out market basket surveys under the Total Diet Study (TDS).”

Among the unsavory metrics in the 2017 report — based on samples from California, New York, Texas, Kansas, and Wisconsin — are that pesticide residues were found in 84% of domestic fruits, 53% of vegetables, 42% of grains, and 73% of samples categorized as “other” (nuts, seeds, oils, honey, candy, beverages, spices, multi-ingredient products, and dietary supplements). Small percentages (less than 3%) of domestic grains, fruits, and “other” products had “violative” levels of residues — those that register above the tolerances set by EPA. However, nearly 10% of vegetables harbored violative levels of pesticide residues.

Levels of residues in specific U.S. commodities tested include, e.g.: 88% of apples and apple juice; 87% of grapes, grape juice, and raisins; 91% of lemons and lemon juice; 92.6% of nectarines and nectarine juice; 84% of strawberries; 87% of kale; 82% of spinach; 86.6% of cucumbers; and 80% of refined oils.

For imported goods, samples of which came from more than 40 countries (including Mexico, Canada, China, and India), outcomes were both better and worse. Residue levels on imported fruits (as a category) were found on 52.3% of samples, as compared with 84% on domestic fruit. Grains came in at 23% with pesticide residue, whereas in U.S. samples, that figure was nearly 42%. On the other hand, domestic dairy and eggs registered only a 4.7% residue rate, while imports came in at 33.3%. Inexplicably, the report lists no outcomes for domestically harvested fish, while imported fish without any pesticide residue logged in at a noteworthy 82.5% residue free.

Across all categories, violative levels of pesticide residue were 3.8% for domestic products and 10.4% for imported goods. Those figures are functions, primarily, of a high violative reading for domestic vegetables (9.4%), and for imports, of high readings for grains (14.1%), fruits (7.9%), vegetables (12.5%), and “other” (8.2%).

What are all these pesticides found in the food supply? Across 6,069 samples, 221 discrete pesticide compounds were detected, including six that had never previously been found via the FDA monitoring program. Also detected, in 34 samples, was the infamous and banned-since-1972 DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane), which speaks to its long persistence in the environment and to its continued use in some parts of Africa, Asia, and South America.

Neonicotinoid (neonic) insecticides were found across a multitude of samples; some of those include: imidacloprid (in 470 samples), thiamexotham (257), acetamiprid (206), clothianidin (145), and dinotefuran (45). Fungicides were found abundantly: boscalid (438), azoxystrobin (348), pyraclostrobin (293), fludioxonil (279), tebuconazole (253), and many others. Organophosphates were also well represented, e.g.: chlorpyrifos (265), malathion (191), phosmet (44), diazinon (38), and dichlorvos (22). To read more about any of these compounds visit Beyond Pesticides’ Gateway on Pesticide Hazards and Safe Pest Management.

Earlier in 2019, Friends of the Earth released a reportToxic Secret — on pesticide residues in the U.S. food supply. Its more-narrow focus found that oat cereals, apples, applesauce, spinach, and pinto beans at four huge food retailers (Kroger, Walmart, Albertson’s, and Costco) contained residues of glyphosate, organophosphates, and neonicotinoids. As Beyond Pesticides reported, “The average level of glyphosate found in cereal samples (360 parts per billion) was more than twice the level set by scientists at Environmental Working Group for lifetime cancer risk for children. The average level of glyphosate found in pinto beans (509 ppb) was more than 4.5 times the benchmark.”

Remarkably, despite the presence of pesticides in so much of the food supply (as the FDA report shows), federal regulators continue to say, basically, “not to worry.” EPA maintains that as long as a residue registers under whatever the “tolerance” is for a particular compound, the pesticide does not pose significant risk to human health. There are several problems with this stance. One is that there is abundant evidence that pesticides do pose risks to human health, never mind to other organisms and the environment broadly. Another is that EPA’s methodologies for assessing risk are flawed and inadequate, as Beyond Pesticides has reported repeatedly.

Too, some tolerances have risen over time — not typically because of science, but because of industry pressure. As Cary Gillam reports for EcoWatch, “The EPA has approved several increases allowed for glyphosate residues in food, for instance. As well, the agency often makes the determination that it need not comply with a legal requirement that states the EPA ‘shall apply an additional tenfold margin of safety for infants and children’ in setting the legal levels for pesticide residues. The EPA has overridden that requirement in the setting of many pesticide tolerances, saying no such extra margin of safety is needed to protect children.” Of course, as tolerances climb, violative levels will be less frequently reported by FDA; and given the chemical industry’s influence on the administration and Congress, the greater the amounts of these chemical residues that will show up in the food supply.

The unholy, back-channel alliances between industry and regulatory agencies is old news, but it has become more robust since the advent of the Trump administration, which appears determined to advantage industry over human well-being by rolling back regulations, reducing enforcement of existing rules, and exploiting opportunities to diminish the role of science in regulation. Both the science community and the public are growing increasingly concerned with the saturation of the food supply with chemical inputs. The issue has gained greater visibility recently with well-publicized lawsuits brought against the makers of glyphosate-based herbicides.

Beyond Pesticides has monitored the pesticide “universe” for decades, reports on research and regulatory developments, and advocates for a transition to agricultural and other systems that don’t depend on toxic inputs. Stay current through the website, the Daily News Blog, and the journal, Pesticides and You, and consider becoming a member of Beyond Pesticides.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Sources: https://www.ecowatch.com/pesticides-fruits-vegetables-fda-health-2641133675.html?rebelltitem=1#rebelltitem1 and https://www.ecowatch.com/pesticides-fruits-vegetables-fda-health-2641133675.html?rebelltitem=1#rebelltitem1

 

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One Response to “U.S. Consumers Eating Pesticide Residues in Fruits and Vegetables, according to Government Report”

  1. 1
    JOPESTKIL KENYA Says:

    Nice to post such an impressive share, I just given this onto a colleague who was doing a little analysis on this. And he in fact bought me breakfast because I found it for him.. smile. So let me reword that: Thnx for the treat! But yeah Thnkx for spending the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love reading more on this topic. If possible, as you become expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more details? It is highly helpful for me. Big thumb up for this blog post!

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