For the second year in a row, strawberries have been named the top carrier of pesticides in produce. In EWG’s findings, 99 percent of the strawberries tested by federal officials contained detectable pesticide residues. Of those strawberry samples, 29 percent included residues of 10 or more pesticides while some contained as many as 21 different pesticides.
This popular leafy green shot up the list from #8 in 2016 to the runner-up spot. Three-fourths of samples tested were contaminated with a neurotoxic bug killer that’s banned from use on food crops in Europe. With an average of 7 pesticides found on every conventionally grown spinach sample collected in 2015, you’d be wise to thoroughly rinse the leaves before chowing down.
Last year, more than 98 percent of nectarines tested positive for multiple pesticide residues and the stone fruit held it’s spot in 2017. Since Americans eat nearly 8 pounds of the fruit each year, according to EWG, this is a special concern for the organization.
According to the report, “pesticides are created expressly to kill living organisms — insects, plants and fungi that are considered “pests.” Many pesticides pose health dangers to people. These risks have been confirmed by independent scientists and physicians across the world.“
The USDA summarized its own testing from 2014 and concluded that “overall pesticide residues found in foods are at levels below the tolerances set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.” But keeping pesticides at a legal level may not be enough for some customers, which is why EWG stresses buying organic produce.
According to tests by the USDA, the amount of pesticide residues on pears has more than doubled since 2010, with more than 50% of pears tested showing residues of 5 or more pesticides, and some had a whopping 20, including fugicides.
“Fruits and vegetables are important for your health,” Sonya Lunder, EWG Senior Analyst, said in a release. “But for those on the Dirty Dozen, we recommend buying the organic versions if you want to avoid pesticides on your food.”
“Even low levels of pesticide exposure can be harmful to infants, babies and young children, so when possible, parents and caregivers should take steps to lower children’s exposures to pesticides while still feeding them diets rich in healthy fruits and vegetables,” said Dr. Philip Landrigan of the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine.
Opt for veggies on the list of produce least likely to contain pesticide residues, such as sweet corn, avocados, cabbage, onions, and frozen sweet peas.
Though cherry tomatoes dropped down to #14 on this year’s list, the full-grown variety still remain in the top 10. A release from EWG warns that “the pesticide industry and chemical agriculture maintain that pesticides on produce are nothing to worry about, but doctors and scientists strongly disagree.“
Sweet Bell Peppers
So should we stop eating these produce varieties completely? Many researchers say no. “Our typical exposure is often 100,000 times lower than levels that show no effect in lab animals who have been fed the chemicals on a daily basis throughout their lifetime,” Carl Winter, director of the FoodSafe Program at the University of California, Davis told Bloomberg.
Potatoes displaced cucumbers from the top 12 in this year’s list. For more information and a full list of the 51 worst culprits, visit the Environmental Working Group website.