Yesterday on The PediaBlog, Sara DePierre walked us through the benefits of organically grown foods. One advantage organic foods have over conventionally farmed foods is their absence of pesticides. Sara mentioned the “Dirty Dozen,” a list of conventionally grown produce with the highest levels of pesticides published by the Environmental Working Group. The EWG’s 2015 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce found that:
Nearly two-thirds of the 3,015 produce samples tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2013 contained pesticide residues – a surprising finding in the face of soaring consumer demand for food without agricultural chemicals.
EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce calculates that USDA tests found a total 165 different pesticides on thousands of fruit and vegetables samples examined in 2013…
Pesticides persisted on fruits and vegetables tested by USDA, even when they were washed and, in some cases, peeled.
Here is the EWG’s “Dirty Dozen”:
- Sweet bell peppers
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Imported snap peas
Unfortunately, the list has recently been expanded to the “Dirty Dozen PLUS”:
For the third year, we have expanded the Dirty Dozen™ with a Plus category to highlight two types of food that contain trace levels of highly hazardous pesticides. Leafy greens – kale and collard greens – and hot peppers do not meet traditional Dirty Dozen™ ranking criteria but were frequently found to be contaminated with insecticides toxic to the human nervous system. EWG recommends that people who eat a lot of these foods buy organic instead.
Here is more of what the USDA found in these produce items:
- 99 percent of apple samples, 98 percent of peaches, and 97 percent of nectarines tested positive for at least one pesticide residue.
- The average potato had more pesticides by weight than any other produce.
- A single grape sample and a sweet bell pepper sample contained 15 pesticides.
- Single samples of cherry tomatoes, nectarines, peaches, imported snap peas and strawberries showed 13 different pesticides apiece.
The news isn’t all bad, however. The EWG also has the “Clean 15” list of conventionally grown produce with low amounts of pesticides:
- Sweet Corn
- Frozen sweet peas
- Sweet potatoes
Key findings in the EWG’s report based on USDA’s data:
- Avocados were the cleanest: only 1 percent of avocado samples showed any detectable pesticides.
- Some 89 percent of pineapples, 82 percent of kiwi, 80 percent of papayas, 88 percent of mango and 61 percent of cantaloupe had no residues.
- No single fruit sample from the Clean Fifteen™ tested positive for more than 4 types of pesticides.
- Multiple pesticide residues are extremely rare on Clean Fifteen™ vegetables. Only 5.5 percent of Clean Fifteen samples had two or more pesticides.
See the full list of 50 fruits and vegetables with pesticide residue data here.