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USDA report: Pesticide residue levels pose no safety concern

An analysis of USDA and EPA's pesticide residue testing from 2013 finds 99 percent of samples tested had residue levels below EPA safety thresholds.

About 0.23 percent of the more than 10,000 products sampled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2013 contained pesticide residue levels that exceeded limits deemed by the government to be safe.

More than 40 percent of samples tested had no detectible pesticide residue, according to the department’s annual summary of its Pesticide Data Program.

USDA and EPA work together to identify foods to be tested as part of the program each year. Nearly 85 percent of the products sampled in 2013 were fresh and processed fruits and vegetables; the other 15 percent included baby formula, butter, salmon, groundwater and drinking water. USDA said that samples with residue levels that exceeded EPA tolerances were reported to FDA, which enforces tolerances for all imported and domestic foods.

“EPA has determined the extremely low levels of those residues are not a food safety risk, and the presence of such residues does not pose a safety concern,” USDA said in a statement.

Yet, not everyone is as optimistic as the USDA about pesticides. A report released earlier this month by the General Accounting Office criticized the process by which FDA and USDA test for pesticides, saying that not enough imported or domestic produce is sampled, and that testing excludes many pesticides that have strict limits set by EPA. Notably, the Associated Press points out that USDA does not test for glyphosate, one of the most widely used herbicides and an active ingredient in Roundup.

Click here to download the PDF summary report from USDA.

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