Government Accountability Office says: FDA, USDA not testing foods for most widely used farm pesticide

FDA, USDA not testing foods for most widely used farm pesticide

By Mark Tapscott | November 7, 2014 | 5:00 am

U.S. Food and Drug Administration tests for pesticides on fruits rarely turn up violations, but the agency doesn’t tell the public its testing ignores the most widely used defoliant, according to the Government Accountability Office.

The FDA does not do “checks for several commonly used pesticides with an Environmental Protection Agency established tolerance (the maximum amount of a pesticide residue that is allowed to remain on or in a food) — including glyphosate, the most used agricultural pesticide,” GAO said in a report made public Thursday.

The congressional investigative arm also criticized FDA for not using “statistically valid methods consistent with [federal] standards to collect national information on the incidence and level of pesticide residues.”

The reason why the agency doesn’t meet those standards, officials told GAO, was that “it would be costly to calculate national estimates for the foods it regulates because it would require a large number of samples for a wide array of products.”

Even so, GAO noted in its report, FDA officials “did not provide documentation on the cost of doing so or an assessment of the trade-offs of doing less targeting and more random sampling.”

The result of the limitations described by GAO is that the flaws “hamper its ability to determine the national incidence and level of pesticide residues in the foods it regulates, one of its stated objectives.”

Similar problems were found with the Department of Agriculture’s testing of meat and poultry products for pesticides.

“For domestic and imported meat, poultry, and processed egg products, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service’s most recent available data from 2000 through 2011 show the agency found a low rate of pesticide residue violations,” GAO said. But FSIS officials “did not test meat, poultry, and processed egg products for all pesticides with established EPA tolerance levels.”

The FSIS has “increased the number of pesticides it has tested for and samples it has taken and engaged with EPA on changes to FSIS’s monitoring program to better provide EPA with data it needs to assess the risks of pesticides,” GAO said.

Go here for the report from GAO.

Mark Tapscott is executive editor of the Washington Examiner.

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