What Every Consumer Should Know About the Pesticide Data Program

A Guide to the Pesticide Data Program (PDP) Annual Summary Report

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The United States Pesticide Data Program (PDP) is specifically designed to analyze pesticide residuals on major food items, especially those eaten by infants and children. Since its establishment in 1991, the PDP has become perhaps one of the most important government agency programs in the monitoring of pesticide use and safety. The program informs not only policies put forth by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) but also the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In fact, the PDP is behind the most comprehensive pesticide residue database in the United States.

What the PDP Does

The Pesticide Data Program operations are managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), specifically the Agricultural Marketing Service's Monitoring Programs Division (MDP). The PDP is responsible (along with the cooperation of state agricultural departments and other federal agencies) for the sampling, testing, and reporting of pesticide residues on food. The information gather through the PDP is then provided to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), who after review, determines whether or not a pesticide is harmful to human health and the environment.

Ultimately, data collected by the PDP is not only used by the EPA, but is available to other Federal agencies, members of the food industry like producers and processors, academic institutions, and chemical manufacturers.

PDP data is also used by environmental interest groups and food safety organizations.

What the PDP Monitors

Over 112 agricultural products have been tested by the Pesticide Data Program including water, fresh and processed produce, meat, poultry, grains, catfish, rice, specialty products, avocados, and certain baby foods.

But food products aren’t the only concerns of PDP. Standards to protect employees exposed to pesticides are also of interest to the program.

Perhaps most notably, the EPA then uses PDP data to analyze the overall dietary exposure to pesticides for safety purposes to conduct risk assessments. Limits of Detection (LODs) are established for each pesticide and its corresponding product to determine which pose no threat to dietary exposure. The EPA reviews every result, including those below and above the defined LOD.

What Consumers Should Know About the PDP Report

Each year, the USDA releases its report known as the Pesticide Data Program Annual Summary. The annual summary includes comprehensive information on everything from their sampling operations to the sample results. While the report itself is generally more than 200 pages, there are certain things that the PDP wants all consumers to know.

Here is a breakdown of the highlights and points of interest the PDP wants consumers to know from the most recent PDP Annual Summary:

  • This year’s PDP data concludes overall pesticide residues found on tested products are below tolerances EPA requires and aren’t a safety concern.
  • Over the years, USDA and EPA have tested foods on rotating basis. For instance, 2012 specifically studied fresh and processed fruits and vegetable, wheat, butter, baby food and water whereas 2013 focused on fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, baby food, infant formula, butter, salmon, and water. 
  • PDP data studies residues on both foods grown domestic and international.
  • The EPA considers all potential excess exposure to pesticides when determining the acceptable pesticide residue amounts on and in our products.
  • Prior to new pesticides being used in the United States, the EPA determines whether or not it poses a risk to humans and the environment.
  • If the PDP report shows pesticide residues in excess of the EPA regulated tolerance, both the FDA and EPA are notified accordingly to address the issue at hand.
  • PDP data is used to assess dietary exposure to pesticide residues.
  • Periodic evaluation is performed to ensure scientific data is current.
  • PDP testing is extremely thorough and able to detect the tiniest amount of residual pesticide.

PDP continues to provide reliable information to help keep our food supply safe. The great news is that over 99 percent of sampled products are below EPA’s tolerance levels

USDA released this statement in PDP’s press release: “The Pesticide Data Program provides reliable data through rigorous sampling that helps assure consumers that the produce they feed their families is safe. Over 99 percent of the products sampled through PDP had residues below the EPA tolerances.

Findings in Most Recent PDP Report

Of the 11,893 samples tested (excluding water) only 63 samples (0.53 percent) had pesticide residuals exceeding EPA tolerance levels. No established residues were found on only 508 (4.9 percent) of tested products. While the EPA has tolerance limits for pesticides on products, certain foods are not to show any pesticide residuals. This is referred to as Pesticide Zero-Tolerance.

Along with the PDP's press release, the EPA released this statement at the time of the most recent report:

“The newest data from the PDP program confirm that pesticide residues in food do not pose a safety concern for Americans. EPA remains committed to rigorous, science-based and transport and transparent regulatory program for pesticides that continues to protect people’s health and the environment."

Other Fast Facts About the PDP

  • PDP was initiated in May 1991 one to test our applicable food supply for pesticide residues.
  • More than 400 different pesticides have been tested include insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and growth regulators.
  • Samples for PDP testing come from ten participating states representing approximately 50% of the nation’s population.
  • Samples are collected as close to consumer consumption as possible. Samples gathered from stores allow study of pesticide degradation from transit to storage and provides information of postharvest residual fungicides and growth regulators.
  • Food products such as grains, poultry, beef and pork are sampled by federal personnel due to significant knowledge in collection, packaging and shipping.
  • Samples chosen are generally items available for consumption throughout the year.
  • PDP’s protocol selects random samples that best represent pesticide residues and allow realistic estimates of exposure to these chemicals.
  • All participants ship samples to the same laboratory to be analyzed.
  • PDP has operation g procedures designed to provide state samplers specific instructions on sample selection, shipping and handling.
  • UDSA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service supports and oversees all sampling operations.

All parties from consumers to food safety organizations have access to the full PDP report. Be sure to check out the USDA website for further information on PDP’s Annual Report. 


U.S. Department of Agriculture. Agricultural Marketing Service. Pesticide Data Program Annual Summary, Calendar Year 2013. December, 2014.

U.S. Department of Agriculture. Agricultural Marketing Service. What Consumers Should Know 2013 Pesticide Data Program Annual Summary. December, 2014.

U.S. Department of Agriculture. Agricultural Marketing Service. The Pesticide Data Program: Helping monitor the safety of America's food supply. September, 2015.

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