USDA Survey of Fruit and Vegetables for Pesticide Residues

The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service recently released the 2017 Pesticide Data Program (PDP) report in which they summarize their survey of pesticide residues in selected produce. Each year they collect pesticide residue data on commodities most frequently consumed by infants and children. Approximately 10,000 random samples are analyzed to measure the lowest detectable levels for pesticides registered for use on those commodities as well as pesticides that may not have U.S. tolerances but are used in other countries. This resulted in over 2 million analyses for 2017.

With the 2017 survey, 83.1% of samples were from fresh or processed fruits and vegetables. The remaining samples included honey, milk, and bottled water. In 2017, applesauce (canned), asparagus, cabbage, cranberries, cucumbers, garbanzo beans (canned), grapefruit, kale, lettuce, mangoes, olives (canned), onions pineapple (canned), plums, snap peas, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes (canned) were sampled. Different commodities are cycled through the program on an approximate five-year rotation. Prior to residue testing, samples were washed for 15 to 20 seconds in gentle running, cold water as a consumer would do. Imports accounted for 26% of samples and domestic samples made up 72.4%. The remainder of samples were of mixed or unknown origin.

Figure 1: Number of pesticides detected per sample as reported by the 2017 USDA PDP survey (Image: USDA AMS).

The survey indicated that over 99% of samples tested had residues well below tolerances established by the EPA with 53 percent having no detectable pesticide residue. Residues exceeding established tolerances were detected in 0.59% (58 samples) of total samples of which 24 were domestic, 32 imported, and 2 of unknown origin. Residues with no established tolerance detected on 3.3% (320 samples) of samples of which 150 were domestic and 170 imported. The complete summary of the 2017 PDP is available online ( While pesticides could be detected on 47% of samples, the overwhelming majority of those samples with pesticide residues had resides that were only a fraction of the established tolerances.

Ric Bessin, Extension Entomologist

Posted in Pesticide Topics