Every year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases its “Dirty Dozen”, a list of 12 produce items that contain the highest loads of pesticide residues. This year the organization analyzed tests conducted by the USDA, finding that nearly 70% of samples of 48 types of produce were contaminated with one or more pesticide residues, which remained even after the produce were washed (and peeled, in some instances). 178 pesticides and pesticide breakdown products were found on the samples that the USDA researchers analyzed.
“New federal data shows that conventionally grown spinach has more pesticide residues by weight than all other produce tested, with three-fourths of samples tested contaminated with a neurotoxic bug killer that is banned from use on food crops in Europe.” – EWG
For the following items that made this year’s list, EWG recommends always buying organic. Each food tested positive for several different pesticide residues, along with having higher concentrations of pesticides compared to other produce.
- Sweet bell peppers
EWG also released a Clean 15 list, produce that was found to have “relatively few” pesticides and a low concentration of residue.
However, there are groups that dispute EWG’s list, because the ranking of produce has been found to have a negative effect on the consumption of produce, whether conventional or organic, especially among low-income consumers. “EWG’s list has been discredited by scientists, it is not based upon risk and has now been shown to potentially discourage consumption of healthy and safe organic and conventional fruits and vegetables,” said Teresa Thorne, Executive Director of the Alliance for Food and Farming (AFF) in a press release. She referred to analysis conducted by a toxicologist with the University of California’s Personal Chemical Exposure Program, which found that a child could eat excessive amounts of produce daily without any negative consequences from the pesticide residues. “For strawberries, a child could eat 181 servings or 1,448 strawberries in a day and still not have any effects from pesticide residues,” Thorne said. AFF also lists some of the regulations regarding pesticide use [http://safefruitsandveggies.com/regulations/organic] on its website.