Random USDA produce tests showed at least 34 unapproved pesticides on samples of fresh cilantro that were not removed with washing, according to an article in the Chicago Tribune.
The tests were part of the agency’s 20-year old program that routinely tests rotating samplings of fresh produce for pesticide levels. This was the first time a fresh herb had been sampled since the program began and comes as quite a blow to cilantro growers. In March, the FDA advised cilantro farmers and distributors about cilantro safety, citing 28 salmonella findings on the herb since 2004.
According to a report released earlier this year by the Pesticide Data Program, the 2009 tests revealed that an alarming 94 percent of the 184 cilantro samples tested returned positive results for at least one unapproved pesticide. In 37 percent of the samples, organophosphate chlorpyrifros—an insecticide approved for cilantro—were found, but came back in at least one instance three times higher than established limits. While the agency stresses that most of the unapproved pesticide levels on the cilantro did not exceed EPA set limits, according to the Tribune, “the fungicide quintozene was found at levels as high as 0.3 parts per million, above the limit of 0.1 ppm set for foods such as tomato paste, and the insecticide diazanon was found at levels as high as 1 ppm, when the limits for other foods on this year’s USDA list range from 0.1 to 0.75 ppm.”
Pesticides have been linked to a number of serious health conditions including neurological damage, causing threats to vital organs, certain types of cancer and lower IQ for children exposed to pesticides while in utero.
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