‘Superfoods’ like blueberries, spinach and kale listed under ‘dirty dozen’ produce aisle fruits and vegetables with the most pesticides
Blueberries, spinach, and kale — each widely recognized as one of the healthiest foods one can eat — have been cited as some of the highest pesticide foods.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG), based in Washington DC, this week named its “dirty dozen” food items, a dubious honor reserved only for fruits and vegetables in America that are laced with the most chemicals.
In addition to the antioxidant-rich blueberries and leafy greens, other favorite snacks include strawberries, grapes, apples, nectarines, pears, and cherries.
Bell peppers and green beans — which often end up in health-conscious recipes — were also mentioned on the ignominious list.
The EWG examined 46 aisle staples for its research and found that 75 percent of fresh-grown produce in America contained residues of harmful pesticides. Human ingestion can damage the nervous system or even cause cancer.
More than 90 percent of samples from strawberries, apples, cherries, spinach, nectarines and grapes contained at least two pesticides, the EWG found
More than 250 different pesticides were discovered on fruits and vegetables, some of which are banned in the US or Europe due to their effect on human health.
For example, the neurotoxic organophosphate insecticide acetate, which was banned for use on green beans in 2011, was found on six percent of green bean samples.
The insecticide is listed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a possible human carcinogen.
Both blueberries and green beans contain worrying levels of organophosphate insecticides.
These can damage the human nervous system and are particularly toxic to children’s developing brains.
Nearly 10 percent of the blueberry samples contained the pesticide phosmet and 9 percent had traces of malathion.
Both are organophosphates and malathion was categorized as a probable human carcinogen in 2015 by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
More than 90 percent of samples of strawberries, apples, cherries, spinach, nectarines and grapes contained at least two pesticides.
More than 50 pesticides were found on every crop on the dirty dozen list, with the exception of cherries.
Kale, collard greens and mustard greens, and hot peppers and bell peppers had the most pesticides of all crops — 103 and 101.
The EWG compiled their “dirty dozen” and “clean 15” lists — fruits and vegetables with the least detectable pesticides — using data from 46,569 samples.
On the Clean 15 list, less than two percent of the avocado and sweet corn samples had detectable levels of detectable pesticides.
The data comes from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which peels or scrubs its product samples before testing, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which only removes the grime before testing.
Even after these steps, 251 pesticides remained on the produce.
The clean 15 list contains tested fruits and vegetables that contain very little or no trace of pesticides.
EWG toxicologist Alexis Temkin said, “Despite the abundance of science linking pesticide exposure to serious health problems, a potentially toxic cocktail of worrying chemicals continues to affect many of the non-organic fruits and vegetables eaten by consumers.”
The EWG emphasized that people should continue to eat fruits and vegetables, even if they are not organic.
Mr Temkin said: ‘Everyone – adults and children – should be eating more fruits and vegetables whether organic or not. A product-rich diet provides many health benefits.’
Fruits and vegetables with the most and least pesticides
3. Kale, collard greens and mustard greens
9. Bell & hot peppers
12. Green beans
2. Sweet corn
6. Sweet peas (frozen)
8. Honeydew melon
13. Sweet potatoes