Better Sampling and Enforcement Needed on Imported Food Gao ID: RCED-86-219 September 26, 1986

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) efforts to protect the public from exposure to illegal pesticide residues in imported food.

GAO found that: (1) the FDA pesticide monitoring program provides limited protection against public exposure to illegal residues in food; (2) FDA samples less than 1 percent of 1 million imported food shipments annually; (3) FDA inspectors at various ports of entry decide the extent to which they apply sample criteria; and (4) FDA uses five multi-residue tests that individually detect many pesticides on a single sample; however, FDA laboratories normally use only one method for each sample. GAO also found that: (1) although FDA policy requires importers to maintain all sampled shipments intact until FDA determines that the product is residue-free, FDA permits importers to release the majority of sampled shipments to U.S. markets before they spoil; (2) of 164 adulterated samples, 73 were not recovered before public consumption; and (3) there were only eight documented cases where FDA assessed importers damages when adulterated food reached the marketplace.


Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.

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