2017 Pesticide Residues in Fresh Produce


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California's Pesticide Residue Monitoring Program

For more than 90 years, DPR's California Pesticide Residue Monitoring Program (CPRMP) has been collecting and analyzing fresh fruits and vegetables for pesticide residues. The CPRMP is the oldest and most extensive pesticide residue monitoring program in the nation. The focus of the CPRMP is enforcing pesticide residue tolerances set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) and to prevent "public exposure to illegal residues" by removing produce containing illegal pesticide residues out of the channels of trade (Cal. Food & Agric. Code §12532). The Code of Federal Regulations, Chapter 40, Part 180, defines and dictates the analysis of raw agricultural commodities for pesticide residue testing. U.S. EPA tolerances are established for raw agricultural commodities based on the toxicity of the pesticide, how much and how often the pesticide is applied, and how much of the pesticide remains in or on the commodity. Data collected also provides DPR's Human Health Assessment Branch information to assess the dietary risk of certain pesticides.

DPR scientists collect samples from all channels of trade including distribution centers, above, as well as farmer's markets, retail stores and roadside stands.

Figure 1. DPR scientists collect samples from all channels of trade including distribution centers, above, as well as farmer's markets, retail stores and roadside stands.

DPR residue monitoring staff sample a wide range of fruits and vegetables collected at sites wherever produce is sold, packed, or distributed. Samples are collected from businesses in the channels of trade, including wholesale and retail outlets, distribution centers, and farmers' markets. Emphasis is placed on sampling fruits and vegetables that:

  1. Are highly consumed by infants and children.
  2. Are treated with pesticides listed as carcinogens or reproductive toxins.
  3. Are reflective of differences in consumption patterns among different ethnic and socioeconomic groups.
  4. Have a history of illegal pesticide residues.

2017 Pesticide Residue Monitoring Sample Collection

DPR scientists collect samples and document produce information on Produce Sample Analysis Reports that remain with each sample as part of the chain of custody. DPR scientists collect samples and document produce information on Produce Sample Analysis Reports that remain with each sample as part of the chain of custody.

Figure 2. DPR scientists collect samples and document produce information on Produce Sample Analysis Reports that remain with each sample as part of the chain of custody.

Sample Origin

In 2017, DPR collected 3,695 produce samples, representing 135 different fruits and vegetables intended for human consumption. A produce sample constitutes approximately two pounds of a single type of produce (such as nectarines) collected at a sampling site. Commodities sampled originated from 28 countries (Figure 3). About 60% of the samples were domestically (U.S.) grown produce (2,208 samples), 39% of the samples were imported produce (1,428 samples), and the remaining 1%, (59 samples) were of undetermined origin.

Origin of produce sampled by the California Pesticide Residue Monitoring Program in 2017

Figure 3. Origin of produce sampled by the California Pesticide Residue Monitoring Program in 2017

Pesticide Residue Monitoring Sample Results

The 3,695 collected samples were analyzed at the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Analytical Laboratories, located in Sacramento and Anaheim, using GC and LC tandem mass spectrometry to detect more than 400 different pesticides and pesticide breakdown products. The majority of samples (96%) had no detectable pesticide residues or residue levels at or below U.S. EPA tolerance levels (Figure 4). In 2017, the CPRMP found 149 illegal samples with 234 illegal pesticide residues detected.

Percentages of produce samples collected in 2017 with legal, illegal, or no detected pesticide residues

Figure 4. Percentages of produce samples collected in 2017 with legal, illegal, or no detected pesticide residues

Country of Origin Results

Most illegal residues were on imported produce, accounting for 72% (107) of the 149 samples found to have illegal residues. 27% (41) of domestic grown samples had illegal residues while one sample had insufficient documentation to determine a country of origin (Figure 5).

Origins of produce containing illegal residues.

Figure 5. Origins of produce containing illegal residues.

Data collected from the CPRMP for 2017 shows that only 2% of US grown produce samples had illegal pesticide residues. (Table 1).

Table 1. Country of origin of illegal pesticide residue produce samples in 2017
Country Illegal Total Sampled Violation Rate
Vietnam 14 14 100%
Spain 1 1 100%
Dominican Republic 2 4 50%
Japan 1 2 50%
Guatemala 8 62 13%
China 9 84 11%
Mexico 68 986 7%
Ecuador 1 18 6%
Costa Rica 1 40 3%
Peru 1 47 2%
US 41 2206 2%
Chile 1 93 1%

California Produce

California grown produce accounted for greater than 25% (563 samples) of all domestic samples tested. This value likely under represents the true number of California grown produce, as sampled commodities labeled "product of USA" were potentially grown in California but DPR was unable to determine the state of origin based on labeling. Over 94% of the samples labelled as grown in California had legal or no residues detected on them. Of the 563 California samples tested, 5% (30) samples had illegal residues. (Table 2.) The CPRMP tested 78 different California grown commodities. Seventeen of those commodities carried 27 different illegal pesticides. (Table 3.)

Table 2. California grown produce with illegal pesticides by county of origin in 2017.
Produce Number of Samples with illegal Residues County of Origin
Beets, Table, Red, or Garden 1 Monterey
Bok Choy (Wong Bok) 3 Riverside, San Benito, San Bernardino
Cabbage 1 Ventura
Carrots 1 Santa Barbara
Chinese Cabbage (Napa) 1 San Luis Obispo
Chinese Radish/Daikon 1 Fresno
Cilantro 6 Santa Barbara, Ventura
Dap CA Herb 1 Riverside
Kale 3 Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Ventura
Lemon 1 Tulare
Lettuce, Leaf 2 Orange, Santa Barbara
Mint 1 Santa Clara
Pea, Snow (Sugar Pea) 3 Santa Barbara
Radish Tops 2 San Benito, Ventura
Squash (Summer) 1 Fresno
Strawberry 1 Monterey
Sweet Potato 1 Merced

Table 3. California grown commodities with illegal residues by pesticide in 2017.
Commodity Numbers of Illegal Samples Pesticide Residue(s) Detected
(Sampled commodity contains one
or more adjacent pesticides residue.)
Beets, Table, Red, or Garden 1 Chlorothalonil
Bok Choy (Wong Bok) 3 Chlorothalonil , Lambda Cyhalothrin
Cabbage 1 Propamocarb
Carrots 1 Pyrimethanil
Chinese Cabbage 1 Propamocarb
Chinese Radish/Daikon 1 Acetamiprid
Cilantro 6 Fluopicolide, Thiamethoxam, Malathion, Pyrimethanil, DDE
Dap CA Herb 1 Demeton, Oxadiazon
Kale 3 Chlorpropham, Fenpropathrin, Linuron
Lemon 1 Chlorpropham
Lettuce, Leaf 2 Bifenthrin, Chlorothalonil
Mint 1 Dinotefuran
Pea, Snow (Sugar Pea) 3 Chlorpropham, Tebuconazole, Dacthal
Radish Tops 2 Boscalid, Cypermethrin, Cyfluthrin, Iprodione, Linuron
Squash (Summer) 1 Endosulfan
Strawberry 1 Indoxacarb
Sweet Potato 1 Chlorpropham

Organic Samples

The CPRMP does not target organic produce but sometimes collects organic produce as encountered during routine sample collection. The California Department of Food & Agriculture (CDFA) administers the State Organic program. More detailed information about the State Organic Program.

Produce labeled as "organic" does not mean, "not treated with pesticides." The U.S. Department of Agriculture allows certain pesticides for use in organic farming. In addition, certified organic produce may have residues of other pesticides at less than 5% of the U.S. EPA commodity tolerance (Code of Federal Regulations, Title 7, Part 205.671).

In 2017, the CPRMP collected 288 organic samples and 99% of those samples had legal or no residues detected. These samples represented 69 different commodities from 12 different countries. Seventy-five percent of the organics tested (215 of 288) were of domestic origins; 23% of the samples (67 of 288) were imported organic.

Although the CPRMP detected 42 organic samples with quantifiable residues, only three of those samples had illegal residues. Two of the illegal samples, lemon and lime, were imported from Mexico. The other sample was of kale grown in California. All three illegal residues were for pesticides that had no tolerance established for the commodity. Results for all organic samples were reported to the CDFA Organic Program for enforcement of state and federal organics standards.

2017 Sample Test Results, All Samples

The program strives to sample a diverse variety of produce. The 3,695 samples tested in 2017 represented 135 different types of produce available for sale in California (Table 4). Illegal residues were detected on 51 different commodities (Table 5). Ten commodities accounted for nearly half of the illegal samples collected in 2017 (snow peas, longan, cilantro, cactus pads, limes, tomatillos, kale, chili peppers, cactus pears and chayote).

Table 4. All commodities sampled in 2017.
Commodity Number
Carrots (Root Crop) 105
Kale 104
Strawberry (All or Unspec) 103
Cauliflower 102
Peach 97
Beans (Green, String, Snap, Yard Long Bean) 88
Orange (All or Unspec) 88
Peppers (Fruiting Vegetable), (Bell, Etc.) 87
Lime (Mexican Lime, Persian, Etc.) 85
Lettuce, Leaf (All or Unspec) 84
Peppers, Chili 84
Sweet Potato 81
Tomatillo 80
Tangerine 76
Pea, Snow (Sugar Pea) 75
Squash (Summer) 75
Celery 74
Pear 72
Tomato 71
Asparagus (Spears, Ferns, Etc.) 70
Lettuce, Crisphead Types (Iceberg, Head Lettuce) 69
Mango 67
Plum, (includes Wild Plums for Human Consumption) 67
Eggplant (Oriental Eggplant) 65
Cucumber (Pickling, English, Chinese, Etc.) 64
Brocooli 62
Corn, Sweet (Fresh Mkt. and Grain Crop) 61
Apple 59
Bok Choy (Wong Bok) 59
Spinach 59
Potato (White, Irish, Red, Russet) 57
Papaya 56
Chayote (Christophenes) 54
Watermelon 54
Avocado 50
Ginger Root 50
Cabbage 49
Chinese Cabbage 45
Cantaloupe 44
Raspberry (All or Unspec) 43
Onion (Dry, Spanish, White, Yellow, Red, etc.) 37
Pineapple (Fresh mkt. pineapple) 37
Chinese Radish/Daikon 36
Kiwi Fruit 36
Garlic 35
Lemon 35
Nectarine 33
Blueberry 30
Mushrooms 26
Grapes 26
Onions (Gree, Oriental Onion, Rakkyo, Japanese Bunching 25
Pricklypear Cactus Pads 25
Honeydew and/or Honey Ball Melons 24
Cilantro 21
Artichoke (Globe)(All or Unspec) 19
Banana 19
Apricot 18
Pear, Asian 18
Cactus Pear 18
Cherry 17
Okra (Gumbo) 17
Brussel Sprouts 16
Squash (Winter) 16
Radish 14
Jicama (Mexican Turnip, Yam Bean 13
Blackberry 11
Guava 11
Longan (Longan Fruit) 11
Beets, Table, Red, or Garden 10
Grapefruit 9
Pluot 9
Pomegranate (Miscellaneous Fruit) 9
Lotus Root (East Indian Lotus) 8
Peas (Seed & Pod Vegetable) 8
Radish Tops 8
Melons (All or Unspec) 7
Bitter Melon (Balsam Pear, Bitter Gourd) 6
Coconut (Subtropical and Tropical Fruit) 6
Garbanzos (including Chick Peas) 6
Parsley 6
Plantain 6
Dragon Fruit 6
Taro (Dasheen) 6
Collards 5
Fennel (Sweet or Florence; Sweet Anise, Finocchio) 5
Leek 5
Tangelo 5
Turnip (Turnip Roots) 5
Lychee 4
Manioc (Cassava) 4
Mustard Greens (Leafy Vegetable, Chinese) 4
Persimmon 4
Swiss Chard (Spinach Beet) 4
Chinese Broccoli (White Flowering) (Gai Lon) 3
Cranberry (Cranberry Bogs) 3
Fig 3
Shallot, Onions (Shallot) 3
Yams, True (Lisbon & White Yam) 3
Basil (Bush, Garden, Sweet) 2
Bean, Broad (Fava, Horse Bean) (All/Unspec) 2
Gai Choy (Loose Leaf) 2
Horseradish (Root Crop) 2
Lemon Grass 2
Mint (All Or Unspec) (Flavoring And Spice Crop) 2
Radicchio 2
Tamarind 2
Turmeric 2
Anise (Sweet Alice) 1
Bamboo Shoots 1
Bean Sprouts, Mung (Chinese Bean Sprouts) 1
Beans, Hyacinth (Chinese Flowering, Lablab Bean) 1
Celeriac (Celery Root) 1
Cherimoya 1
Chestnut 1
Chinese Amaranth, Chinese Spinach (Tampala) 1
Chinese Greens, Chinese Leafy Vegetables 1
Chinese Okra (Hechima, Angled Luffa, Veg. Sponge) 1
Chinese Water Chestnut 1
Crenshaw Melon 1
Dap Ca Herb 1
Date 1
Endive (Escarole) 1
Groundcherry (Strawberry Tomato) 1
Kohlrabi 1
Leafy Vegetables (All Or Unspec) 1
Mamey (Mammee Apple, South American Apricot) 1
Pome Fruits (All Or Unspec) 1
Prune 1
Pumpkin 1
Purslane, Winter (Leafy Vegetable) 1
Galangal 1
Sapote, White (Sapote) 1
Soybean Sprouts 1
Tindora 1
Water Convolvulus (Ung Choy, Water Sweet Potato) 1

Table 5. All commodities with illegal pesticide residues sampled in 2017.
Commodity with Illegal Residue Number of Illegal Total Number Samples Tested Percentage of Illegal Residues State or Country of Origin
Apple 1 59 2% Washington
Avocado 2 50 4% China, Mexico
Basil 1 2 50% Mexico
Beans (Green, String, Snap) 3 88 3% Mexico, Guatemala
Beans, Hyacinth 1 1 100% Dominican Republic
Beets, Table, Red, Or Garden 1 10 10% California
Blackberry 1 11 9% US
Bok Choy 3 59 5% California
Broccoli 1 62 2% Mexico
Cabbage 1 49 2% California
Cactus Pads 9 25 36% Mexico
Cactus Pear 6 18 33% Mexico
Carrots 1 104 1% California
Chayote (Christophenes) 5 54 9% Mexico
Chinese Cabbage 1 45 2% California
Chinese Radish/Daikon 3 36 8% California, Mexico, US
Cilantro 10 21 48% California, US, UNK
Cucumber 2 64 3% Mexico
Dap Ca 1 1 100% California
Dragon Fruit 5 5 100% Vietnam, Florida
Garbanzos 1 6 17% Mexico
Garlic 1 35 3% Spain
Ginger Root 3 50 6% China
Guava 1 11 9% Mexico
Kale 7 104 7% California, Mexico, US
Lemon 2 35 6% California, Mexico
Lettuce, Leaf 2 92 2% California
Limes 8 85 9% Mexico
Litchi Nuts 4 4 100% Vietnam
Longan 10 11 91% China
Lotus Root 1 8 13% China
Mango 1 67 1% Ecuador
Mint 1 2 50% California
Onions (Green, Oriental) 4 25 16% Mexico, Japan
Papaya 1 56 2% Mexico
Parsley 2 6 33% Texas, US
Pea, Snow 13 75 17% California, Guatemala, Mexico
Pear, Asian 1 18 6% China
Peppers, Chili 7 81 9% Mexico
Radish Tops 2 8 25% California
Spinach 1 59 2% Arizona
Squash (Summer) 1 75 1% California
Squash (Winter) 2 16 13% Mexico
Strawberry 1 103 1% California
Sweet Potato 1 84 1% California
Tangerine 1 76 1% Peru
Taro 1 6 17% Costa Rico
Tindora 1 1 100% Dominican Republic
Tomatillo 8 80 10% Mexico
Tomato 1 71 1% Mexico
Watermelon 1 54 2% Mexico

2017 Pesticide Test Results

Among the 149 illegal produce samples collected, residues from 64 different pesticides exceeded federal tolerances. Illegal carbendazim and chlorpyrifos residues accounted for over 21% of the illegal residue detections in 2017 (Table 6). While most illegal produce samples had only a single illegal residue, some commodities had multiple illegal residues per sample. Together, the 14 illegal lychee and longan samples had 66 illegal residues detected from 23 different pesticides.

Table 6. Illegal pesticide residues found on commodities in 2017.
Pesticides Number Found Pesticides Number Found
Acephate 4 Hexaconazole 6
Acetamiprid 6 Imazalil 1
Aldicarb 1 Indoxacarb 2
Bifenthrin 1 Iprodione 3
Boscalid 1 Kresoxim-Methyl 1
Captan 7 Lambda-Cyhalothrin 6
Carbendazim 38 Linuron 3
Carbofuran 2 Malathion 1
Chlorothalonil 6 Metalaxyl 4
Chlorpropham 6 Methamidophos 7
Chlorpyrifos 12 Methidathion 4
Dacthal 1 Methomyl 4
Cyfluthrin 2 Monocrotophos 7
Cypermethrin 8 Oxadiazon 1
Cyromazine 1 Permethrin 3
DDE 8 Phenthoate 1
Demeton 1 Phorate 1
Diazinon 1 Prochloraz 5
Dicofol 3 Profenofos 2
Difenoconazole 9 Propamocarb 7
Diflubenzuron 3 Pyraclostrobin 2
Dimethoate 2 Pyrazon 1
Dimethomorph 5 Pyridaben 1
Dinotefuran 1 Pyrimethanil 3
Diuron 1 Quinoxyfen 1
Endosulfan 3 Sulprofos 1
Esfenvalerate 1 Tebuconazole 7
Fenazaquin 2 Thiabendazole 1
Fenobucarb 1 Thiamethoxam 2
Fenpropathrin 1 Triazophos 1
Fipronil 3 Tricyclazole 2
Fluopicolide 1 Triflumizole 1

Dietary Risk Assessments

When illegal residue(s) are detected, DPR's Human Health Assessment Branch (HHA) reviews the toxicity for each pesticide residue. A dietary risk assessment may be conducted by HHA to determine whether the residues on the sample pose a potential acute health risk to consumers. Assessments are based on consumption rates for the produce and acute reference doses for that pesticide or combination of pesticides. If HHA determines the produce may pose a potential health risk to consumers, DPR makes a concerted effort to determine the origin of the produce and to remove it from the channels of trade. In 2017, HHA determined 12 samples were potential health risks to consumers (Table 7).

Table 7. Commodities and their origins found to contain residues that can pose a potential health risk to consumers.
Commodity Origin (State or Country) Pesticide Detected
Apple Washington Thiabendazole
Cactus Pads Mexico Carbofuran
Cactus Pads Mexico Monocrotophos
Cactus Pads Mexico Methomyl, Monocrotophos
Cactus Pads Mexico Monocrotophos
Chayote Mexico Methamidophos, Monocrotophos
Chayote Mexico Methamidophos
Cucumber Mexico Methomyl
Lychee China Profenofos, Chlorpyrifos
Lychee China Chlorpyrifos
Longan Vietnam Phenthoate
Tindora Dominican Republic Methomyl

DPR notifies and collaborates with the California Department of Public Health and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to alert consumers and work with growers and importers to ensure future illegal residues do not make it into our food supply.

DPR Enforcement on Illegal Pesticide Residues

When illegal pesticide residues are detected, DPR quarantines the produce containing the illegal residues. The owner of the quarantined produce has the option to either securely dispose of it on site, "recondition" the produce, or convert it into byproducts. Reconditioning must reduce an over-tolerance of an otherwise legal residue or eliminate an illegal residue when there is no tolerance established. After reconditioning, the owner must pay for the sample to be reanalyzed. If test results show the pesticide residue below the legal tolerance, DPR may allow sale of the produce. If not, disposal of the produce is required.

DPR investigators will trace the movement of the produce with illegal residues by contacting distributors, retailers, and wholesalers throughout California. DPR quarantines and collects additional samples if suspected of carrying illegal residues. If it is determined that the produce with illegal pesticide residues was grown in California, the County Agricultural Commissioner (CAC) in the county where the produce was grown will investigate to determine the source of contamination. Frequently, DPR scientists assist CAC staff with this investigation. Both DPR and CACs have authority to levy civil penalties for illegal use of pesticides.

To stem the flow of produce with illegal residues into California, DPR conducts compliance interviews with companies repeatedly identified as the first point of sale in California of produce with illegal residues. These companies are typically produce importers, brokers, or distributors. During these compliance assistance interviews, DPR staff reviews the illegal residue cases with company representatives, and discusses steps the company may take to prevent future sale of produce with illegal pesticide residues. DPR has the authority to levy civil penalties against anyone who packs, ships, or sells produce with illegal pesticide residues.

In 2017, DPR imposed $208,000 in civil penalties against five produce companies with a history of recurring illegal pesticide residue violations. Information on these penalties can be found at Produce with Illegal Pesticide Residue Fines and Settlements.

For more information on results, the 2017 DPR Pesticide Residue Monitoring Program Data are available for downloading on DPR's website. Click on "A-Z Index" and then go to "Residue Monitoring Program."