Decades-old state program keeps produce safe

For people who like to eat, there is some comforting news out there: More than 96 percent of produce samples sold in California and tested for pesticide residues meets public health safety standards.


For homegrown produce, it’s even better: Safety standards are met nearly 98 percent of the time, according to 2011 results released this month by the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR).


“Most produce has no detectable pesticide residues and when there are residues, they are at such a low level they are not a health risk,” said DPR Director Brian R. Leahy. “This is good news for farmers and consumers.”


California has been analyzing produce for pesticide residues since 1926. Leahy noted that DPR’s residue monitoring is the most extensive program of its kind in the nation. It is the last check in a comprehensive enforcement program that begins with a thorough evaluation to ensure only those pesticides that are effective and can be used safely with no adverse effects to human health or the environment are registered.


DPR scientists collect produce from large grocery stores, mom-and-pop shops and wholesale outlets throughout the state. In addition to apples, lettuce and other frequently consumed fruits and vegetables, tomatillos and other produce that reflects California’s diverse cuisine are tested.


Produce samples are analyzed at the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) Center for Analytical Chemistry in Sacramento and its sister laboratory in Anaheim. Nearly 25 percent of the 2011 results were analyzed using liquid chromatography mass spectrometry. This new technology expands the number of pesticides detected and detects them at lower levels, including recently registered pesticides. DPR is committed to fully implementing this new technology at CDFA’s labs by 2014 to ensure that fresh produce sold in California is in compliance with pesticide safety standards.


When illegal residues are found, DPR immediately removes the produce from sale and can order it to be destroyed.

The 2011 pesticide residue monitoring data and previous years are posted at:


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