By David Fairfield, Senior Vice President of Feed Services
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Oct. 1 released the results of its FY 2016 Pesticide Residue Monitoring Program that indicate whether the levels of pesticide chemical residues measured by agency in the U.S. food supply are generally in compliance with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pesticide tolerances.
For human food, the latest report indicates that for the pesticides tested in fiscal year (FY) 2016 (Oct. 1, 2015 through Sept. 30, 2016) more than 99 percent of the 2,670 domestic and 90 percent of the 4,276 imported human food samples were found to be in compliance with federal pesticide residue standards. No detectable levels of pesticide residues were found in 52.9 percent of domestic and 50.7 percent of imported human food samples analyzed. Less than 1 percent of domestic samples and less than 10 percent of imported samples were found to be violative. Samples are violative if they have pesticide chemical residues above the EPA tolerance or pesticide chemical residues for which the EPA has not established a tolerance or a tolerance exemption for the specific pesticide/commodity combination.
For animal food, 467 samples (242 domestic and 225 import) were evaluated. No residues were found in 104 (43.0 percent) of the 242 domestic samples, and 0.8 percent (2 samples) were violative. Of the 225 import samples, 123 (54.7 percent) contained no residues and 3.1 percent (7 samples) were violative. Most of the violations concerned pesticides for which no tolerance has been established.
FDA’s pesticide residue monitoring program is a compliance program used by the agency to monitor the level of pesticide chemical residues in domestic and imported foods to ensure that they do not exceed the EPA limits or tolerances. FDA monitors a broad range of foods using a multi-residue method that analyzes approximately 700 different pesticide chemical residues in a single analysis.
Significantly, FDA for the first time in FY 2016 conducted a special assignment using a new test method for glyphosate and glufosinate in four commodities: corn, soybeans, milk and eggs. Of the 760 samples tested for the glyphosate and glufosinate assignment (consisting of 274 grain corn, 267 soybean, 113 milk, and 106 egg samples), 53.7 percent had no detectable residues of the pesticides. None of the milk and egg samples had any detectable glyphosate or glufosinate residues, and all the residues detected in the corn and soybean samples were below the tolerance levels set by the EPA.
When the FDA identifies a violative sample in a domestic food, it may issue a Warning Letter to the responsible party and take other actions, such as seizure to remove the food from commerce, or imposition of an injunction to correct the cause of the violation. When a violative sample is identified in an imported food, shipments may be refused entry into U.S. commerce and firms may be listed on an Import Alert. FDA also may detain the food without physical examination if there is information that the shipment of the food appears to be violative.
Annual reports have been prepared to summarize results of the FDA pesticide residue monitoring program since 1987. The annual reports and data published from 1993 to the present are available online.