Over Half of Foods Tested in the U.S. Contain Pesticides

For Immediate Release

Over Half of Foods Tested in the U.S. Contain Pesticides

WASHINGTON - Late Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released the latest round of sampling for pesticide residues found on food. Some of the results are concerning, and take on greater significance given weaknesses in the sampling protocols recently identified by government watchdogs. In addition, while results may not exceed “tolerance” levels, some are linked with impacts on children’s health and intelligence.

A sampling of the fruits and vegetables with the greatest number of different pesticides found — as well as most frequent detections — includes celery, nectarines, peaches and raspberries. Results of concern were found both on imports and produce grown inside U.S. borders. In addition, some pesticides that have been banned in the United States and around the world due to health impacts are also showing up on food.

In response to the new results from USDA’s Pesticide Data Program, Emily Marquez, PhD, staff scientist for Pesticide Action Network, released the following statement:

“A majority of the foods sampled contained some level of pesticide residue. While the levels found were mostly below ‘tolerance’ levels established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, for many pesticides health impacts in children can occur at such low levels.

For example, testing was done for the neurotoxic insecticide chlorpyrifos in 18 different types of food (mainly fruits and vegetables or products). While only a small number of samples contained the chemical, detections were in 12 of the 18 types of food.

The chlorpyrifos residues were nearly all below EPA’s tolerance levels; yet it is worth noting that very small amounts of chlorpyrifos are associated with adverse effects. Epidemiological studies on children exposed to the insecticide have indicated associations with lowered IQ and effects on brain development at low doses.

In October, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report recommending that both FDA and USDA disclose limitations in their pesticide residue monitoring. One limitation that USDA should clarify regarding the sampling methodology is that the samples taken are not nationally representative. Because of these limitations, GAO reported that “users of the data may misinterpret information in these reports and draw erroneous conclusions based on the data.”

Accurate information about pesticide residues in our food and their potential impact on public health is critical. We will be updating our Whatsonmyfood.org database with these new data, and analyzing them further. But in the interests of public transparency, USDA should be crystal clear about the limitations of its sampling methodology as detailed by GAO, and outline its plans to correct these weaknesses.”


PANNA (Pesticide Action Network North America) works to replace pesticide use with ecologically sound and socially just alternatives. As one of five autonomous PAN Regional Centers worldwide, we link local and international consumer, labor, health, environment and agriculture groups into an international citizens' action network. This network challenges the global proliferation of pesticides, defends basic rights to health and environmental quality, and works to ensure the transition to a just and viable society.

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