Toxic pesticide residues in more than half of U.S. food, one-tenth of samples violate legal restrictions, FDA says

(Beyond Pesticides, Aug. 16, 2022) More than half of all food samples tested by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) contain residues of at least one pesticide, and one-tenth of the samples has levels that violate legal restrictions set by the United States. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These findings, which the FDA released this month in its 2020 Pesticide Residue Surveillance Report, rival the course of government regulators as the FDA shows the 2020 results were “consistent with recent years.” Thing. But while reports of dangerous pesticides in U.S. food have become routine for the FDA, more and more Americans are making their food choices organic and planting pesticide-free gardens. , by encouraging, denying regular exposure to unnecessary toxic substances in food. Their elected officials should adopt safer and more sustainable land management policies.

The FDA has conducted annual reviews of pesticide residues in foods since 1987, evaluating both domestic and imported foods entering the U.S. market. The EPA sets “pesticide resistance,” also known as the “maximum residue level,” of pesticide residues allowed on certain foods, while the FDA (and USDA for certain items such as meat, poultry, and eggs) is tasked with enforcing these provisions.

Pesticide tolerance means from the outset there is an acceptable level of pesticide exposure applicable to the general public. However, this process is fraught with problems with significant public health implications. EPA sets tolerance limits as part of the “food safety equation,” and conducts dietary risk assessments to determine amounts that provide “reasonable certainty of no harm” under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. is being implemented. As part of this process, the EPA is required by law to evaluate both dietary pesticide exposure and pesticides with a “common mechanism of action,” including air, water, landscaping, and household pesticide use. Government agencies claim to take consumption by more sensitive groups into consideration, but in practice this is often not the case.

Poor regulation puts expectant mothers, children, and certain ethnic groups in the United States at risk. Pregnant mothers and their children consume more pesticides than adults and develop organ systems less capable of detoxifying toxic chemicals. As a result, they are at greater risk because they are exposed to less pesticides in their food than adults. Consume many specific foods. Thus, like litchi, feijoa, soursop, sapodilla, and other foods that are rarely consumed by the general public but may be consumed regularly by certain U.S. communities. For a wide variety of foods, resistance levels do not necessarily protect against higher levels of consumption. nearby) or work in an industry that exposes them to hazardous substances.

Due to the pandemic, the FDA’s sampling program included a smaller sample size than usual. Of the 2,078 samples tested, 316 were domestic and 1,762 were from imported foods. Of the 316 domestic food samples, 59.2% contained residues of at least one pesticide, and 3.2% violated EPA pesticide resistance. There were a total of 1,762 imported samples, of which more than 50% contained at least one pesticide residue and 11.6% were in violation. In general, food samples imported into the United States from other countries appeared to be at high risk of containing pesticide residues. Countries with the most import violations include Mexico, India and Pakistan.

Among the over 2,000 samples tested, 185 different pesticide residues were detected. The fungicide azoxystrobin appeared most frequently (146 times), followed by the notorious bee-killing insecticide imidacloprid (143 times) and the fungicide boscalid (124 times). Bee-killing neonicotinoids constitute three of the ten most frequently detected chemicals in food, including imidacloprid, plus thiamethoxam (92 times) and acetamiprid (77 times). Neonicotinoids, as systemic insecticides, spread throughout the vascular system of plants and consequently are not easily washed away, greatly increasing the potential for post-harvest human exposure. Other notable detections included 70 samples containing chlorpyrifos, currently banned for agricultural use. Thirty-three samples contained glyphosate, which the FDA was previously cited as failing tests by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The most frequently violated products include basmati rice imported from India and Pakistan, leeks from Mexico, dragon fruit from Vietnam and jackfruit from Mexico. Some of these major violations are foods that certain ethnic communities in the United States consume at higher rates than other ethnic American communities, increasing the disproportionate risks many communities are exposed to.

The FDA’s low sample size in 2020 may be forgiven because of the pandemic, but GAO previously cited the FDA as testing only a fraction of the fruits and vegetables produced and imported in the United States. did. “Our overall judgment is that because of the limited amount of food that the FDA can test for pesticide residues, the FDA oversight program is a strong deterrent to shipping food containing pesticide residues that adulterate food. Acting as a force is critical. Our review of the FDA’s Pesticide Surveillance Program indicates otherwise.”

Clearly not much has changed since the 1997 testimony. Rather than act as a strong deterrent, the FDA appears content as long as the data are “in line” with recent findings. However, recent experience has shown that business as usual cannot continue. In addition to the growing specter of pesticide-induced diseases afflicting countless Americans, the pesticide residues lingering on our food are remnants of previous biocidal warfare against nature, poisoned farm workers , landscapers, pollinators, streams, or just the legacy of natural land. .

Stopping the rampant use of pesticides to harm people and the natural world requires more than just identifying the dozen or so dirty and problematic fruits and vegetables, we need to commit to eating conscientiously. Our food choices directly affect the health of our environment and the farm workers who grow and harvest the food we eat. Eat as organically as possible, try your hand at a pesticide-free garden, and protect organic integrity to ensure that it remains a viable pesticide-free alternative to toxic chemical farming.

All unattributed positions and opinions on this work are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Reports and data from the FDA Pesticide Residue Monitoring Program.


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