According to the latest pesticide residue report released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which used 2015 data and was released in November 2016, about 85 percent of the more than 10,000 samples they tested contained pesticide residues. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also compiled an annual pesticide residue report using 2015 data, which was released in November 2017. It, too, showed the majority of U.S. fruits and vegetables are contaminated with pesticide residues.
The FDA’s sampling of nearly 6,000 foods revealed that fruits and vegetables are most frequently contaminated with pesticide residues. Notably, 82 percent of domestic fruits and 62 percent of domestic vegetables had such residues, including:
- 97 percent of apples
- 83 percent of grapes
- 60 percent of tomatoes
- 57 percent of mushrooms
- 53 percent of plums
Among imported fruits and vegetables, 57 percent and 47 percent contained residues, respectively, and the imported varieties were more likely to contain illegal levels of pesticide residues compared to the domestic samples. Raising red flags is the fact that the neurotoxic pesticide chlorpyrifos was the fourth most-prevalent chemical in the samples out of the more than 200 pesticides detected.
The chemical, known to disrupt brain development and cause brain damage, neurological abnormalities, reduced IQ and aggressiveness in children, has a half-life on food of several weeks, making nonorganic foods a major source of exposure. The FDA was quick to point out that “over 98 percent of domestic and 90 percent of imported foods were compliant with federal standards,” but this isn’t saying much if the federal standards are too lax to protect public health.
Former EPA senior scientist and director of the Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine, Tracey Woodruff, told Environmental Health News, “Risk assessment practices at federal agencies have not been updated for modern scientific principles, including accounting for the fact that people are exposed to multiple chemicals and that certain groups, such as genetically susceptible, the very young and old can be at greater risk of exposure.