Cherries came in at number eight this year on the list of the 12 most contaminated foods, with peaches, pears, celery and tomatoes completing the list.
But don’t stop eating these foods, which are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants needed to fight chronic disease, experts say.
“If the things you like to eat are on the ‘Dirty Dozen’ list, we recommend buying organic versions when you can,” said Alexis Temkin, a toxicologist at EWG who specializes in toxic chemicals and pesticides.
“Several peer-reviewed studies and clinical trials have looked at what happens when people switch to an all-organic diet,” she said. “Pesticide concentrations and measurements are decreasing very rapidly.”
Avocados had the lowest pesticide levels among the 46 foods tested, followed by sweet corn, pineapple, onions and papaya.
The USDA does not sample all 46 foods every year, so the EWG pulls results from the most recent testing period. Strawberries, for example, haven’t been tested by the USDA since 2016, Temkin said,
The tests revealed the highest level of multiple pesticides – 103 – on samples of the heart-healthy trio of kale, collard greens and mustard, followed by 101 different pesticides on hot peppers and bell peppers. Overall, “spinach samples contained 1.8 times more pesticide residues by weight than any other crop tested,” the report said.
Being exposed to multiple pesticides, even at low levels, is “supra-additive,” with each pesticide impacting health more than it could in isolation, said Dr. Leonardo Trasande, chief of environmental pediatrics at NYU Langone, which was not involved in the report.
Health risks of pesticides
Chlorpyrifos contains a enzyme “which leads to neurotoxicity, and has also been associated with potential neurodevelopmental effects in children,” the EPA said.
Many pesticides also affect the endocrine system of developing fetuses, which can interfere with developmental growth, reproduction, and metabolism.
The agriculture industry has long complained about the release of the “Dirty Dozen,” saying the EWG “intentionally” misrepresents USDA data in the report.
“To put it simply, EWG’s attempt to misrepresent data to create bias…is driving growing consumer fear of fruits and vegetables,” said Chris Novak, president and CEO of CropLife America. , a national trade association representing manufacturers, formulators and distributors of pesticides.
“A study found that specifically naming the ‘Dirty Dozen’ led to a decrease in the likelihood that shoppers would buy ANY vegetable and fruit, not just the ones on their list,” Novak said via email. mail.
“The study actually shows that just over half of respondents said the ‘Dirty Dozen’ list made them more likely to buy fruits and vegetables,” Temkin said. “Only about 1 in 6 said our report would make them less likely to buy products.”
Steps consumers can take
Rinse all produce before serving. Don’t use soap, detergent or commercial laundry detergent – water is the best choice, experts say.
Choose local. According to experts, buying food purchased directly from a local farmer can reduce the risk of exposure to pesticides.
Buy in season. Prices fall when fruits and vegetables are seasonal and plentiful. Now is a good time to buy organic foods in bulk and then freeze or can them for future use, experts suggest.