Nearly 70 percent of conventionally grown produce is contaminated with pesticides, but some foods are dangerously worse than others. The top “Dirty Dozen” are ranked by the Environmental Working Group in its Dirty Dozen Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce.
Here is the 2017 Dirty Dozen list:
- Sweet bell peppers
EWG found the most contaminated sample of strawberries had 20 different pesticides. Spinach samples had an average of twice as much pesticide residue by weight than any other crop. Three-fourths of spinach samples had residues of a neurotoxic pesticide banned in Europe for use on food crops. It’s part of a class of pesticides that recent studies link to behavioral disorders in young children.
The Environmental Working Group’s (EWB) analysis of tests by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) found that nearly 70 percent of samples of 48 types of conventional produce were contaminated with residues of one or more pesticides. USDA researchers found a total of 178 different pesticides and pesticide breakdown products on the thousands of produce samples they analyzed. The pesticide residues remained on fruits and vegetables even after they were washed and, in some cases, peeled.
“If you don’t want to feed your family food contaminated with pesticides, the EWG Shopper’s Guide helps you make smart choices, whether you’re buying conventional or organic produce,” said Sonya Lunder, an EWG senior analyst. “Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is essential no matter how they’re grown, but for the items with the heaviest pesticide loads, we urge shoppers to buy organic. If you can’t buy organic, the Shopper’s Guide will steer you to conventionally grown produce that is the lowest in pesticides.”
Lunder said it’s important to reduce young children’s exposures to pesticides. The pesticide industry and chemical agriculture maintain that pesticides on produce are nothing to worry about, but doctors and scientists strongly disagree.
“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.
Landrigan, dean of Global Health and Director of the Children’s Environmental Health Center at Mt. Sinai, was the principal author of a landmark 1993 National Academy of Sciences study, Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Children. The study led to enactment of the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act that set safety standards for pesticides on foods.
By contrast, EWG’s Clean Fifteen™ list of produce least likely to contain pesticide residues, or lower residues, include:
- Sweet corn
- Frozen sweet peas
- Honeydew melons
For more information, visit EWG.