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Pesticides in Produce: Which Fruits and Veggies Are in The ‘Dirty Dozen' and ‘Clean 15’

Food

When it comes to the flow of information regarding pesticide levels found in fruits and vegetables in the U.S., consumers have been failed.

That's what the Washington D.C.-based Environmental Working Group (EWG) said Tuesday as it released its 2014 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in ProduceThe guide includes a list of the "Dirty Dozen"—the 12 fruits and vegetables with highest levels of pesticide residue, per EWG's analysis of testing data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration.

The "Dirty Dozen," as listed by the Environmental Working Group. Graphic credit: EWG

The research and advocacy nonprofit also ranked the "Clean Fifteen," a ranking of the fruits and vegetables with the least amounts of pesticide residue.

Nos. 1 through 8 of the Environmental Working Group's "Clean Fifteen." Graphic credit: EWG

 

Nos. 9 through 15 of the Environmental Working Group's "Clean Fifteen." Graphic credit: EWG

A provision of the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996 requires the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to inform people about potential hazards to their food from the presence of pesticides. EWG says that's largely been failure, thus necessitating its annual shoppers's guide.

"The agency provides some information on its website, but it does not list foods likely to contain the highest amounts of pesticide residues nor those that pose the greatest dangers to human health," according to an EWG statement.

In all, the EWG analyzed 48 fruits and vegetables. Here are some key findings about both the "Dirty Dozen" and "Clean Fifteen":

  • Avocados were the cleanest: Only 1 percent of avocado samples showed any detectable pesticides.

  • Some 89 percent of pineapples, 82 percent of kiwi, 80 percent of papayas, 88 percent of mango and 61 percent of cantaloupe had no residues.

  • No single fruit sample from the "Clean Fifteen" tested positive for more than 4 types of pesticides.

  • Detecting multiple pesticide residues is extremely rare on "Clean Fifteen" vegetables. Only 5.5 percent of "Clean Fifteen" samples had two or more pesticides.

  • Every sample of imported nectarines and 99 percent of apple samples tested positive for at least one pesticide residue.

  • The average potato had more pesticides by weight than any other food.

  • A single grape sample contained 15 pesticides. Single samples of celery, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas and strawberries showed 13 different pesticides apiece.

"For decades, various toxic pesticides were claimed to be 'safe'—until they weren't, and either banned or phased out because they posed risks to people," said Sonya Lunder, EWG's senior analyst and principle author of the report.

"While regulators and scientists debate these and other controversies about pesticide safety, EWG will continue drawing attention to the fruits and vegetables with the highest pesticide loads."

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

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