Strawberries top 'Dirty Dozen' list for pesticides - again

Strawberries top 'Dirty Dozen' list for pesticides - again

Editor's note: This opinion piece by Sonya Lunder, senior analyst for the Environmental Working Group, is part of a three-piece presentation today by Food Safety News.

He encourages consumers to continue educating themselves about food safety and consult the Safe Fruits and Veggies website from the Alliance for Food and Farming, which represents both organic and conventional farmers.

On average, spinach samples contained nearly twice as much pesticide residue by weight compared to any other produce item tested. One sample, in particular, had an "astounding" 22 pesticide residues found. EWG's analysis of the tests shows that there are stark differences among various types of produce.

For the third year in a row, the sweet fruits top the "Dirty Dozen" list of the most pesticide-tainted produce, according to the Environmental Working Group.

Twenty-five years after the National Academy of Sciences issued a landmark report raising concerns about children's exposure to toxic pesticides through their diets, Americans still consume a mixture of pesticides every day.

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And once again, experts not involved in the report say they worry the list will discourage people from eating fruits and vegetables, especially people on budgets who view higher-priced organic produce as unaffordable. Studies have linked pesticide-laden produce to everything from asthma and cancer to fertility problems and brain conditions.

In fact, almost 70% of conventionally grown - non-organic - produce samples were contaminated, the tests indicated. A previous study of male participants found similar associations between consumption of high-residue produce and reproductive health. And the organization is suggesting that when buying organic produce is not an option, shoppers should choose conventional foods with lower pesticide residue. Importantly, the studies' definition of higher and lower pesticide foods mirrors EWG's Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists. "With EWG's guide, consumers can fill their fridges and fruit bowls with plenty of healthy conventional and organic produce that isn't contaminated with multiple pesticide residues". More than 98 percent of samples of strawberries, spinach, peaches, nectarines, cherries and apples were found to have at least one of the pesticides. The USDA found an average of 7.8 different chemical substances per strawberry sample tested in 2015 and 2016, compared to 2.1 substances for all other produce.

According to EWG's annual shopper's guide report, about a third of all strawberry samples tested has at least 10 pesticides on it.

"We absolutely could not grow strawberries or peaches or plumbs in our climate without the help of pesticides".

The EWG named the same produce items in its "Dirty Dozen" list this year as it did last year, although they were in a slightly different order.

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