Pesticide Residue Found in Half of U.S. Food, But USDA Considers It Safe

New research suggests that up to half of all food in the United States contains detectable levels of pesticide residue. However, federal regulators indicate that the levels are considered safe. 

According to a report issued Friday by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), pesticide levels were detected in nearly half of 10,000 samples of food and water tested during the study.

Of the samples tested, 99% of pesticides tested for showed levels of residue levels within U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) safety levels.

Government officials say its not a concern, considering most levels were within levels considered to be safe. Researchers tested samples of fresh and processed fruit, vegetables, infant formula, salmon, groundwater and drinking water.

The USDA’s Pesticide Data Program Annual Summary report collected data during 2013 from California, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Researchers tested 9,990 samples of fresh and processed fruit and vegetables, infant formula, salmon, groundwater and drinking water.

EPA sets “tolerance levels” for pesticide residues and how much can remain in the food that goes to the consumer after it has been processed.

A total of 8,526 fresh and processed fruit and vegetable samples were tested, along with 356 infant formula samples, 756 butter samples, 352 salmon samples, 14 groundwater samples and 100 drinking water samples.

More than 40% of samples tested showed no detectable pesticide residue. However, 23 samples exceeded EPA tolerance levels. Overall findings of the new study revealed residues of pesticides with no established tolerances were found in 301 of the samples.

The sampling was designed to ensure pesticide residues are kept within tolerance levels in food and other items consumed by consumers.

Pesticide Health Concerns

Pesticide exposure continues to be an area of concern across the country. An outbreak of skin rashes and other illnesses in Washington state in May was linked to the use of pesticides.

More than 60 people reported suffering illness over the past two months. In addition, areas of Washington reported heightened numbers of children born with anencephaly, a rare condition which is usually fatal and causes infants to be born without parts of their brains or skulls.

The new study did not test for glyphosate, a widely controversial product and the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide. It is also the most used herbicide in the U.S.

The USDA said the study did not measure glyphosate because it is very expensive to test for residues of that chemical on a regular basis, as this report is conducted yearly.

The use of glyphosate continues to be a hot topic for many consumers.

Recently controversy concerning glyphosate contributed to the passage of the country’s first mandatory labeling law for foods that are genetically modified in Vermont earlier this year.

Last year, Monsanto Co., developer of Roundup, requested and received EPA approval for increased tolerance levels for glyphosate.

Earlier this year, the EPA proposed the farming pesticide safety measure to revise existing rules for pesticide levels, protecting millions of agricultural workers from harmful pesticides each year.

A study published earlier this year concluded children born to women who lived near fields during pregnancy were more likely to develop autism.

Researchers found exposure to certain organophosphates, including glyphosate, during third trimester increased child’s risk of developing autism or other developmental delays.

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