Strawberries topped the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) “Dirty Dozen” list of produce with the most pesticides. It’s the second straight year strawberries has led the list, which has been published since 2004 and is based on U.S. Department of Agriculture tests of 48 types of produce.
EWG, a non-profit research group, found 70% of the thousands of analysed samples contained at least some pesticides. Altogether, the group found 178 different types of pesticides.
“Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is essential no matter how they’re grown,” said EWG senior analyst Sonya Lunder, “but for the items with the heaviest pesticide loads, we urge shoppers to buy organic.”
“A crop like strawberries will always have lots of pesticide residues because they are vulnerable to pests, they grow directly in the soil, have high water content and lack a protective outer peel,” Lunder said.
Sweet corn and avocados topped the EWG’s Clean Fifteen list of foods with the least amount of pesticides. The study found these foods contained few pesticides and pesticide residue.
The Alliance for Food and Farming, which represents organic and non-organic growers, is opposed to the EWG’s list. The alliance’s Executive Director Teresa Thorne said the list has been “discredited” and dissuades people from eating fruits and vegetables.
“If EWG truly cares about public health,” Thorne said, “it will stop referring to popular produce items that kids love as ‘dirty’ and move toward positive, science-based information that reassures consumers and promotes consumption.”
However, the EWG said parents, in particular, should avoid feeding their young children food with pesticides, which have been linked to lower IQs.
“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. Phillip Landrigan of the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York.
EWG’s Dirty Dozen list