Strawberries, spinach top 'dirty dozen' produce with most pesticides

EWG's 2018 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce

The analysis, based on produce samples tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, found that strawberries and spinach contained the highest amounts of pesticide residues. EWG's analysis of the tests shows that there are stark differences among various types of produce.

For the third year in a row, the sweet fruits top the "Dirty Dozen" list of the most pesticide-tainted produce, according to the Environmental Working Group.

The nonprofit, nonpartisan environmental organization has ranked the pesticide contamination of fruits and veggies every year since 2004 and releases them in their annual "Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce".

However, they encourage people to go for more organic produce since discovering nearly 70 percent of their samples had been contaminated by pesticides, according to a release. Male participants who ate high-residue produce had poorer sperm quality.

Water is enough, the scientists say, as mild detergents or commercial vegetable washes do not increase the amount of pesticide residues you are able to wash away.

The findings from the EARTH studies raise important questions about the safety of pesticide mixtures found on produce, and suggest that people should focus on eating the fruits and vegetables with the fewest pesticide residues. It's called the Clean Fifteen. The alternative to consuming conventional produce is consuming organic produce, or no produce at all.

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Apples, grapes, tomatoes and peaches also made the guide's "Dirty Dozen" list for containing detectable pesticide residues. More than 98% of strawberries, spinach, peaches, nectarines, cherries and apples tested positive for at least one pesticide residue.

The group says conventionally grown strawberries are typically dosed with dozens of pesticides before and after being planted.

This year, the Dirty Dozen list is actually a "baker's dozen" and includes a 13th suspect: hot peppers. If you can not find or afford organic hot peppers, cook them, because pesticide levels typically diminish when food is cooked. The tests found 230 different pesticides and pesticide breakdown products on the samples.

Avocados and sweet corn were the cleanest. Not a single fruit from the Clean Fifteen tested positive for more than four pesticides and more than 80 percent of pineapples, papayas, asparagus, onions and cabbages had no pesticide residue.

Multiple pesticide residues are extremely rare on Clean Fifteen vegetables. Over the past two decades, a large portion of the most toxic pesticides have been withdrawn.

Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst at EWG, said the point of the annual guide is to equip consumers with the knowledge and information they need to make the best purchases for their families - especially if they are trying to avoid pesticide residues in their foods. Additional details from the Environmental Working Group on its website.

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