According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture producers in California raise over 400 commodities, supplying over one-third of the U.S.’ vegetables and two-thirds of the fruits and nuts. These commodities are among the top ten valued crops in California and include (2015):
- Almonds — $5.33 billion
- Grapes — $4.95 billion
- Lettuce — $2.25 billion
- Strawberries — $1.86 billion
- Tomatoes — $1.71 billion, and
- Walnuts — $977 million
California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) and County Agricultural Commissioners conduct the nation’s most extensive state program for monitoring pesticide residues in fresh produce. DPR annually conducts tests on produce collected for pesticide residues to ensure it meets stringent pesticide safety standards. DPR just released their annual survey results for 2015 Pesticide Residues in Fresh Produce report. The report shows the vast majority of fruits and vegetables grown by California producers meet the pesticide safety standards.
DPR’s findings show 96 percent of tested California-grown produce had little or no pesticide residues. Only 4 percent of the samples had pesticide residues in excess of the established tolerance level, or had illegal traces of pesticides that were not approved for that commodity. Produce that most frequently tested positive for illegal pesticide residues in 2015 included ginger from China; cactus pads, cactus fruits, and limes from Mexico; and spinach and kale from the U.S.
According to DPR, their report is based on year-round collection of approximately 3,600 samples of produce, including those labeled as “organic,” conducted by DPR scientists at grocery stores, farmers markets, food distribution centers, and other outlets throughout California.
The produce is tested for more than 350 types of pesticides using state of the art equipment operated by the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Determines Pesticide Residue Levels
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) sets levels for the amount of pesticide residue that can be present on fruits and vegetables that will not cause adverse health impacts when consumed. The highest residue level that is allowed on a commodity is called a “tolerance.” It is a violation if a residue exceeds the established tolerance for the specific fruit or vegetable, or if a pesticide for which no tolerance has been established is detected. However, a sample with an illegal pesticide residue does not necessarily indicate a potential health concern.
We congratulate and thank California’s producers and applicators for your diligent crop husbandry and our regulatory officials for catching the few bad actors. It’s your combined diligence and hard work that continue to make the U.S. food supply the safest in the world!