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The 2017 Dirty Dozen: Strawberries, spinach top list of pesticides in produce

By Staff

The latest Environmental Working Group Shoppers Guide to Pesticides in Produce™ is out.

Analysis of tests by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that nearly 70% of samples of 48 types of conventional produce were contaminated with residues of one or more pesticides. USDA researchers found 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.

“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,” says Sonya Lunder, an EWG senior analyst. “If you can’t buy organic, the Shopper’s Guide will steer you to conventionally grown produce that is the lowest in pesticides.”

For the Dirty Dozen list, EWG singled out produce with the highest loads of pesticide residues.

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Nectarines
  4. Apples
  5. Peaches
  6. Pears
  7. Cherries
  8. Grapes
  9. Celery
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Sweet bell peppers
  12. Potatoes

Pears and potatoes were new additions, displacing cherry tomatoes and cucumbers from last year’s list. Key findings:

  • 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 neurotoxin banned in Europe for use on food crops—part of a class of pesticides that recent studies link to behavioral disorders in young children.

By contrast, EWG’s Clean Fifteen™ list of produce least likely to contain pesticide residues includes:

  1. sweet corn
  2. avocados
  3. pineapples
  4. cabbage
  5. onions
  6. frozen sweet peas
  7. papayas
  8. asparagus
  9. mangoes
  10. eggplant
  11. honeydew melon
  12. kiwis
  13. cantaloupe
  14. cauliflower
  15. grapefruit

Relatively few pesticides were detected on these foods, with low total concentrations of pesticide residues. (A small amount of sweet corn, papaya and summer squash sold in the United States is produced from GMO seedstock. Buy organic varieties of these crops if you want to avoid GMO produce.)

When an all-organic diet is not an option, use the Shopper’s Guide; choose your conventional produce wisely.

Get a downloadable version of the guide to your computer, tablet or smartphone:

This article was originally published on May 4, 2017.