A report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) says the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not perform enough pesticide residue tests on either imported or domestic foods to say whether the American food supply is safe.
According to the GAO report, the FDA is testing less than one-tenth of 1 percent of imported fruits and vegetables and less than 1 percent of domestic fruits and vegetables, the Washington Post reports. This makes it impossible for the FDA to meet its mandate to “determine the national incidence and level of pesticide residues in the foods it regulates.”The report also raises concerns about FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture decisions not to test for many commonly used pesticides for which there are strict residue limits. Although the FDA and the USDA are not legally required to test for specific pesticides, they are responsible for enforcing maximum residue limits that are set by the Environmental Protection Agency. When limits are violated, food products are subject to seizure. The USDA tests for pesticide residue in poultry, meat and processed egg products.
Rep. Paul Tonko, of New York’s 20th congressional district, who requested the report, said the results concerned him. He urged the agencies to follow the federal auditors’ recommendations. “Improvements are needed in pesticide residue monitoring,” he said, according to the Post, noting that both agencies “will need to devote more resources to pesticide residue monitoring to implement GAO’s recommendations.” The GAO does not have the authority to order federal agencies to follow its recommendations.
The FDA does not plan to follow the recommendation to disclose the names of pesticides not tested for, because it said users could “more easily circumvent” the testing program if it did. The USDA did agree to release the pesticide names in its annual report, the Post reports. The GAO expressed concern that while the annual reports indicate that residue levels are low and violations are rare, this is a false picture since the testing does not include many common pesticides.