Limited Testing Finds Few Exported Unregistered Pesticide Violations on Imported Food

RCED-94-1: Published: Oct 6, 1993. Publicly Released: Nov 19, 1993.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO: (1) identified unregistered pesticides produced for export in the United States; and (2) determined whether these pesticides are returning to the United States on imported food, based on Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Department of Agriculture (USDA) residue tests.

GAO found that: (1) of the 27 unregistered pesticides U.S. manufacturers produce for export, 19 have never been registered and 8 have been fully or partially cancelled; (2) limited testing has found few violations of residue tolerances; (3) Mexican produce has accounted for over 50 percent of the pesticide violations on imported foods; (4) FDA does not test all 27 pesticides because some pesticides are not likely to leave a residue, the United States imports little produce from the countries where the pesticides are used, or it is unaware of their existence; (5) USDA has tested only 3 of the 27 pesticides because it lacks specific information on the health effects of the untested pesticide residues; (6) residues from unregistered pesticides may not come from U.S.-manufactured pesticides, since some unregistered pesticides are manufactured in other countries; (7) FDA lacks sufficient information to identify all exported unregistered pesticides and their use; and (8) FDA does not have sufficient reference standards and testing methodologies to test all unregistered pesticides.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Congressional priorities have changed since GAO made this recommendation. There has been no legislation introduced in the 104th Congress to implement this recommendation.

    Matter: To help FDA obtain the information it needs to test for pesticide residues, Congress may wish to consider amending the Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act to require manufacturers of unregistered pesticides sold to foreign purchasers to provide the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with information on export destinations, foreign registration, pesticide reference standards, and test methods and require EPA to make this information available to FDA.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The principal pesticide producers trade association, the American Crop Protection Association, has voluntarily provided information to FDA on unregistered exported pesticides. GAO believes that this information strengthens FDA's ability to test imported foods for compliance with the food safety standards in the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

    Recommendation: Given no statutory requirement for pesticide manufacturers to provide EPA with information on export destinations, foreign registration, and pesticide reference standards and test methods, the Administrator, EPA, should work with industry to acquire this information on a continuing basis and provide it to FDA for use in monitoring pesticide residues.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency


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