The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) took decisive action against six companies the state says ignored repeated warnings and sold imported fruits and vegetables with illegal pesticide residues.
“These companies were importing and selling produce to stores that primarily cater to California’s ethnic communities. They were given ample opportunities to change their methods but chose not to do so,” said California DPR Director Brian Leahy.
Fines in the latest cases range from $10,000 to $20,000-plus for violating pesticide laws, which DPR Spokesperson Charlotte Fadipe says are in place to protect consumers.
“Some of those companies were warned five times,” she said.
The latest company to be fined, Top Quality Produce Inc., in Los Angeles, will pay $10,000 for selling tainted lychees and other produce.
“We protect all Californians and will not stand by and watch as companies gamble with people’s health and flout our laws,” Leahy said. “This action is a reminder that we are serious about protecting all consumers from adverse risk of pesticides.”
DPR conducts statewide inspections of farmers markets, chain stores, distribution centers and other sellers as part of its Residue Monitoring Program. Under this program, DPR randomly selects and tests fruits and vegetables to ensure they do not contain pesticide residues higher than the trace levels legally allowed.
Since 2013, DPR has repeatedly found imported produce for sale in California that exceeds U.S. pesticide limits. This includes Cactus Pads, imported from Mexico, that were tainted with an organophosphate-based pesticide which was banned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency more than 30 years ago because of health concerns.
According to Fadipe, international countries may have pesticides limits that differ from the U.S., but produce sold in California must meet U.S. standards.
DPR inspectors traced the tainted produce back to six import companies. In each case, DPR says the agency warned the importers about the risk of selling such produce in California. However subsequent investigations, DPR says, showed that the companies continued to import produce from the same suspect sources and sell the tainted food in California.
When illegal pesticide residues were found, DPR immediately ordered the produce destroyed and/or quarantined.
Six companies fined
According to DPR, the six companies fined by the agency under California law include:
Top Quality Produce, Inc., La Puente, will pay $10,000. On five separate occasions the company sold produce such as Longan imported from Thailand, Burdock Root imported from Taiwan and Lychees imported from China with illegal pesticide residues. The produce was sold between November 2013 and July 2014.
Yi Bao Produce Group, Vernon, will pay $15,000. On seven occasions, the company sold produce imported from China including Ginger, Taro Root, Longan and Fragrant Pear with illegal pesticide residues. The produce was sold between March 2013 and September 2014.
Primary Export International Inc., South San Francisco, will pay $9,000. On five occasions, the company sold produce imported from China including Longan and Lychees with illegal pesticide residues. The produce was sold between June 2013 and August 2014.
Marquez Produce, Los Angeles, will pay $21,000. On seven occasions, the company sold produce imported from Mexico such as Cactus Leaves, Tomatillos and Squash with illegal pesticide residues. The produce was sold between April 2013 and May 2014.
La Sucursal Produce, Inc., Los Angeles, will pay $12,000. On five separate occasions the company sold produce imported from Mexico such as Tomatillos, Cactus Pears and Cactus Leaves with illegal pesticide residues. The produce was sold between August 2013 and July 2014.
V&L Produce, Inc., Vernon, will pay $6,000. On four separate occasions the company sold produce imported from Mexico such as Purslane, Cactus Leaves and Mexican Squash with illegal pesticide residues. The produce was sold between April 2013 and October 2014.
The full list for enforcement actions for illegal pesticide residues can be found here.
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DPR says its Pesticide Reside Monitoring Program is the most extensive program of its kind in the nation. It collects about 3,500 samples annually from more than 170 kinds of produce. These samples come from wholesale and retail stores, farmers markets and other outlets.
The department collects produce and samples locations that reflect California’s diverse population.
A video story of DPR inspectors collecting produce samples and testing for pesticides can be found here.