Strawberries, spinach, kale have most pesticide residue, report finds

Dwayne Harmon
March 24, 2019

A January 2018 study from the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health found that women who ate produce with higher levels of pesticides while undergoing fertility treatment has an increased risk of having a stillbirth.

Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that almost 70 percent of produce sold in the United States comes with pesticide residues after analyzing more than 40,900 samples of 47 popular fruits and vegetables taken by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration.

According to the test data, more than 92% of kale samples contained residue from at least two or more pesticides.

The last time kale was included in the USDA's produce tests was 2009 and it ranked eighth on the Dirty Dozen list.

Nearly 60% of kale sampled contained Dacthal, which is a pesticide that's been banned in Europe and the U.S. calls a "possible human carcinogen", The Guardian reports.

The majority of conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables contain pesticide residues that are not eliminated even after washing and peeling the food, scientists revealed Wednesday.

On that note, the EWG also released a list of the "Clean Fifteen" produce for 2019 in which avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, frozen sweet peas, onions, and papaya took the top spots.

More than 70 percent of the "Clean 15" produce samples had no pesticide residues, the study found.

Consumers should buy organic produce whenever possible to avoid pesticides, according to the report.

The annual EWG list ranks popular fruits and vegetables based on levels of contamination. Samples of both kale and spinach had about 10 to 80 percent more pesticide residue by weight than any other crop.

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The Alliance for Food and Farming, a non-profit that represents organic and non-organic growers, said the "Dirty Dozen" list is "unsupportable".

While she is encouraged that the USDA and FDA conduct such testing for pesticides, she and others at EWG hope more people become educated about the prevalence of pesticide residue on their food, and the potential dangers of exposure to these chemicals. Some even contained residues from as many as 18 different pesticides.

"Pesticides are allowed to be used in organically grown produce as well; they simply can not be synthetic [pesticides], they have to be naturally-derived", she said.

Bottom line: A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is essential for health, so don't give up on them just because of the "dirty dozen" list.

Numerous pesticides detected by EWG have always been banned in the European Union and have been the subject of concern at the EPA-but the US has failed to take the chemicals off the market.

Avocados and sweet corn were the cleanest.

Despite this, the report explained that the risk shouldn't put people off eating these foods.

Additionally, the agency says that evidence has shown that the brain development of children can be affected from high exposure to pesticide.

The findings make the case for choosing organically grown fruits and vegetables, since research has shown that organic produce has fewer pesticide residues than conventional.

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