Report: 97 Percent Of Fruits And Vegetables Tested In California Are Free Of Illegal Pesticide Residues

Published online: May 27, 2024 Articles
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Sacramento – Newly released California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) data show that 97 percent of fresh fruit and vegetable samples collected and tested contain no illegal pesticide residue.

The department’s 2022 California Pesticide Residue Monitoring Annual Report includes information on 3,281 produce samples collected from more than 500 businesses throughout California.

Key findings from the report include:

  • 97 percent of fresh produce tested had no detectable pesticide residues or had residues below health-protective thresholds set by the federal government.
  • 37 percent of all samples collected had no detectable pesticide residues, while another 60 percent had residues below federal benchmarks. Just 3 percent of all samples had illegal residue levels.
  • Only 1 percent of domestically grown produce sampled and tested contained illegal residues.
  • No illegal residues were found on 78 types of produce tested, including highly consumed products like avocados and apples.
  • Of the illegal residues found, 82 percent were on imported produce.

DPR samples produce from wholesale and retail outlets, distribution centers, and roadside and farmers markets. Samples include imported and domestically grown produce that have been both organic and conventionally farmed.

When illegal detections are found, the department traces the produce back to the store, distributor and farmer. Produce with illegal detections are quarantined and may be destroyed to prevent further distribution of tainted products.

Samples are analyzed by scientists at California Department of Food and Agriculture laboratories and tested for 500 types of pesticides and related compounds. The testing occurs on unwashed, unpeeled produce. Residue quantities above limits set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are illegal to sell. These limits are called “tolerances” and are set for specific pesticides found on specific crops.

Violators may face fines or other penalties. In one case, results found through DPR’s monitoring led to a $10,000 fine levied by the Kern County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office for illegal use of multiple pesticides on strawberries.

In gathering produce samples, special emphasis is given to the types of produce commonly consumed by children. The department also prioritizes produce varieties with a history of illegal pesticide residues, produce originating from countries with past illegal-residue detections, and products often treated with pesticides listed under Proposition 65 as carcinogens or reproductive toxins.

See this website for more information on DPR’s food residue monitoring program, and to view past reports.