- The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) released the 2015 Pesticide Data Program (PDP) Annual Summary, which contains findings on pesticide residues that seem to conflict with other recent reports, according to a news release.
- The report found that 99% of the tested samples contained pesticide residues below the Environmental Protection Agency's established levels, and researchers detected no residue on 15% of samples. Researchers found residues exceeding the EPA's set levels on only 0.53% of tested samples.
- For each annual report, the USDA and EPA rotate the types of foods they test. For 2015, the agencies surveyed fresh and processed foods, including fruits, vegetables and peanut butter.
This report's findings vary significantly from those by activist nonprofit groups and even the U.S. Food and Drug Administration itself, but there's good reason for that. USDA and EPA tested for pesticides, but not glyphosate, which is not a PDP-sampled pesticide, the agencies said in a frequently asked questions page.
Since glyphosate is the world's most used agricultural chemical, the PDP report could seem skewed. USDA doesn't specify that glyphosate isn't included under the PDP report in its news release. Without a deeper dig into the report, the USDA's findings could appear to invalidate the FDA and nonprofits' reports — when in actuality they don't.
In October, the FDA reported finding glyphosate residues in samples of honey and oatmeal instant cereals, with select honey samples containing twice the amount of residue allowed in the European Union. Earlier this week, Food Democracy Now and The Detox Project revealed they had detected glyphosate residues in a wide range of popular food products, including cookies, crackers, cereals and chips.
The USDA report 's timing is problematic. The agency released this report days before the nonprofits released their glyphosate residue findings, and not long after the FDA published its own glyphosate testing results.
Another key difference here is the set of foods sampled for these pesticide tests, which could make results difficult to compare — even if they had all looked for glyphosate. USDA and EPA tested fruits, vegetables and peanut butter. The FDA tested honey and oatmeal. The nonprofits tested various cereals and snack foods, which often contained grains.
Still another consideration is the testing method used. FDA ceased its own glyphosate testing last week after challenges with standardized methodologies and lab equipment that wasn't always sensitive enough for the testing. The nonprofits used an FDA-registered lab facility and liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry, widely regarded as the scientific standard for detecting glyphosate residues.
The fact sheet for the PDP report did not specify the exact types of equipment or testing methods it used, saying instead, "All PDP laboratories have achieved ISO 17025 accreditation and are equipped with instrumentation capable of detecting residues at very low levels. The PDP testing methods detect the smallest possible levels of pesticide residues, including levels below the tolerances set by the EPA."