In a settlement announced by the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR), Best Oriental Produce Inc. of Vernon was penalized $10,000 and agreed to put control measures in place to prevent sales of produce with illegal pesticide residues in California.

The settlement was assessed for illegal methomyl residues on long beans and illegal captan residues on bitter melon, both imported from Mexico by Best Oriental Produce. Although illegal, the residues were at such low levels they did not pose a health risk.

“Most fresh produce samples we test every year have no detectable pesticide residues, “Chief Deputy Director Chris Reardon said. “We hold growers, distributors and importers accountable when they violate our pesticide laws designed to ensure the safety of the food supply.”

The monitoring program collects produce samples from wholesale and retail outlets, chain store distribution centers and farmers’ markets for testing at California Department of Food and Agriculture’s laboratories. The laboratories test for more than 200 pesticides and breakdown products.

In 2010, DPR collected 3,020 samples of more than 170 kinds of produce from wholesale and retail outlets and chainstore distribution centers. The department targets produce and sampling locations that reflect California’s diverse population. The emphasis is fruits and vegetables eaten by infants and children and commodities with a history of residue violations.
The settlement with Best Oriental Produce included the following violations:

  • Long beans collected in December 2010 at a wholesale market in Buena Park tested positive for methomyl . No safe limit has been established for this insecticide on long beans.
  • Bitter melon collected in February 2011 at a wholesale market in Vernon tested positive for captan. No safe limit has been established for this fungicide on bitter melon.

Of the samples tested in 2010, 64.8 percent had no pesticide residues, 32.8 percent had residues within legal limits and 2.4 percent had illegal residues. Consumers were not at risk because the illegal residues were at such low levels. When illegal residues are detected at any level, DPR immediately directs removal of the produce from the channels of trade and can order it to be destroyed.

If the owner of the produce has similar produce from the same source, DPR quarantines the product until laboratory testing verifies it is free of illegal residues. DPR also traces the distribution of the illegal produce by contacting distributors throughout California, imposing additional quarantines and conducting additional sampling as needed. DPR works closely with the federal Food and Drug Administration, which has jurisdiction over imported produce from other states and countries, and the California Department of Public Health.

More information about DPR’s Pesticide Monitoring Program, including reports on pesticide residues in fresh produce from 2010 and previous years, is posted at http://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/enforce/residue/rsmonmnu.htm.