Better Regulation of Pesticide Exports and Pesticide Residues in Imported Food Is Essential

CED-79-43: Published: Jun 22, 1979. Publicly Released: Jun 22, 1979.

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American agricultural imports in fiscal year 1977 totaled over $13 billion making other countries' pesticide practices increasingly important because pesticide residues may be on these imports. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has identified neither the pesticide practices of nor all pesticides used in other countries. Such knowledge is essential if the agency is to make sure that food imports do not contain harmful residues of pesticides that have been suspended, canceled, or never registered in the United States. In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has neither informed other governments of pesticide suspensions, cancellations, and restrictions in the United States nor revoked tolerances for residues of these pesticides on imported foods.

EPA has not canceled over 297 tolerances for pesticides whose uses have been suspended and canceled up to 6 years ago due to adverse human or environmental effects. Continuing tolerance and/or action levels without adequate determinations as to safety and avoidability mislead and condone other countries' use of hazardous pesticides. Half of the imported food that FDA found to be adulterated during a 15-month period was marketed without penalty to importers and consumed by an unsuspecting American public. EPA needs to monitor these exported pesticides more vigorously not only to alert other governments of the dangers of specific products but also to provide information to FDA that would be useful in its imported food monitoring program.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) should require the Commissioner of FDA to obtain data on foreign pesticide usage as a basis for determining what pesticide residue analysis to perform; require importers to provide certificates which identify pesticides that have been on imported food and certify that residues comply wth U.S. tolerances; and revise the residue sampling program to ensure that all significant imported food commodities are sampled each year for pesticide residues. The Administrator of EPA should revoke tolerances for residues of pesticides that have already been suspended and canceled for food uses and make tolerance revocation an integral part of the EPA pesticide cancellation process. The Administrator of EPA, the Secretary of HEW, and the Commissioner of FDA should determine whether existing and proposed action levels are safe and appropriate; establish action levels for residues of suspended and canceled pesticides that may be unavoidably present in food; and investigate pesticide use conditions in foreign countries when significant residues of a pesticide are detected in an import to ensure that action levels are lower than residue levels which may result from direct purposeful application of pesticides to food.

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