This article is taken from the October 27, 2023 NGFA Newsletter.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued its annual Pesticide Residue Monitoring Program Report for Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 that summarizes the testing of FDA-regulated foods for pesticide residues, with results showing the vast majority of samples being in compliance with pesticide tolerances established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The report indicates FDA tested 1,367 human foods and 80 animal foods during the time period of Oct. 1, 2020 through Sept. 30, 2021 for approximately 750 different pesticides and selected industrial compounds.

Approximately 68% fewer human food samples and 78% fewer animal food samples were collected in FY 2021 compared with FY 2019, the most recent year not impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. FDA states that sample collection and analysis increased in FY 2022.

In FY 2021, FDA found that 96.7% of domestic and 89.3% of import human foods were compliant with pesticide tolerances set by EPA. No pesticide residues were found in 35% of the domestic samples and 44.5% of the import samples.

For animal food, the agency found that 100 percent of domestic and 98.4% of import animal food samples were compliant with pesticide tolerances. No pesticide residues were found in 37.5% of the domestic and 40.6% of the import animal food samples.

FDA states that due to the low sample numbers, only limited conclusions can be drawn from the results. However, the violation rates for both human and animal food samples in FY 2021 were similar to recent years.

FDA considers food samples to be violative if:

  • They contain a pesticide chemical residue above an existing EPA tolerance
  • They contain a pesticide chemical residue for which the EPA has not established a tolerance or a tolerance exemption for the specific pesticide/commodity combination.

FDA’s monitoring program selectively evaluates a broad range of domestic and import commodities for residues of different pesticides and selected industrial compounds.

The agency also conducts focused sampling surveys for specific commodities or selected pesticides of special interest. For example, FDA monitors the levels of pesticide chemical residues in foods prepared for consumption in its Total Diet Study (TDS), an ongoing program that monitors contaminants and nutrients in the average U.S. diet.

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By David Fairfield, senior vice president, Feed