The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) today released a report finding that 97% of fruits and vegetables sampled within the state in 2021 met federal pesticide safety standards.
The 2021 California Pesticide Residue Monitoring Program Report shows that 97% of domestically grown and imported produce samples collected in 2021 had either no detectable pesticide residues or had residues within the allowable federally-established tolerances. In addition, more than 98% of produce samples labeled as "grown in California" had no residues or tolerances that exceeded allowable levels. These results, compiled annually, are consistent with the department's last several years of produce residue monitoring and reflect the strength of California's pesticide regulatory program and compliance with it.
The 2021 report's findings are based on 3,444 produce samples collected by the department at approximately 500 locations.
The pesticide residue monitoring program supports DPR's mission to protect people and the environment. Federally established tolerances identify the maximum allowable residue level of a specific pesticide on food that provides a 'reasonable certainty of no harm.'
"DPR's produce monitoring program is the largest and longest-running state program for testing fruits and vegetables for illegal pesticide residues," DPR Director Julie Henderson said. "With a focus on food eaten by children, as well as the state's diverse ethnic communities, this program helps protect all Californians from pesticide residues on both domestic and imported produce."
DPR scientists throughout the year visit food distribution centers, stores, and outdoor markets to collect samples of foreign and domestically-grown produce. The samples are tested by California Department of Food and Agriculture labs for more than 500 pesticide residues and breakdown products.
U.S.-grown produce continues to have significantly fewer illegal pesticide residues than imported produce. Imported produce accounted for nearly 77% of illegal pesticide residue samples. Of the imported commodities sampled, cactus pads and fruit originating from Mexico continue to show high percentages of illegal pesticide residues.
When illegal residues are detected, DPR investigators trace the suspect crop through its lines of trade – from store shelves to shippers, importers, or growers. Tainted products and crops are quarantined and subject to reconditioning, such as washing, to remove residues or potential destruction. In addition to potentially losing their inventory, growers, and distributors whose produce exceeds tolerances can face fines and other penalties.
In 2021, DPR issued 120 quarantine notices for more than 70,000 pounds of produce carrying illegal pesticide residues. In addition, DPR referred 22 cases of illegal California-grown samples to local County Agricultural Commissioners (CACs) for investigation of potential illegal pesticide uses. CACs issued statutory fines against growers in instances where produce sources were able to be identified.
As part of enforcement activities, DPR staff provide guidance to growers and importers for ways to prevent sales of illegal produce.