Strawberries top 'Dirty Dozen' list for pesticides - again

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

Editor's note: This opinion piece by Sonya Lunder, senior analyst for the Environmental Working Group, is part of a three-piece presentation today by Food Safety News.

So whatever produce you buy scientists say just washing it under running tap water for 30 seconds should eliminate any leftover pesticides. Nearly all spinach samples (97 percent) contained pesticide residues, while 94 percent of nectarine samples contained at least two pesticides.

You can find the full Shoppers Guide to Pesticides and Produce and read the full report on EWG's website. EWG's analysis of the tests shows that there are stark differences among various types of produce.

In the 2018 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce, the Environmental Working Group analyzed more than 38,800 samples taken by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and ranked 47 fruits and vegetables based on pesticide contamination after the foods were washed or peeled.

"If you can not find or afford organic hot peppers, cook them, because pesticide levels typically diminish when food is cooked", the authors of the report noted.

"With EWG's guide, consumers can fill their fridges and fruit bowls with plenty of healthy conventional and organic produce that isn't contaminated with multiple pesticide residues".

The list focuses on conventionally grown produce. Importantly, the studies' definition of higher and lower pesticide foods mirrors EWG's Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists.

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A nonprofit health organization has listed the top fruits and vegetables contaminated by pesticides.

Whether these findings influence your consumption of the Dirty Dozen, washing your produce correctly is an easy, effective tactic. EWG's analysis of the most recent tests by the Department of Agriculture found that almost 70 percent of samples of conventionally grown produce were contaminated with pesticide residues.

It's springtime and many of us are craving colorful seasonal delights, like for example, a strawberry spinach salad, but strawberries and spinach both top the list when it comes to pesticide contamination.

The group says conventionally grown strawberries are typically dosed with dozens of pesticides before and after being planted. And more than 80% of pineapples, papayas, asparagus, onions and cabbages tested negative for pesticide residues. Tomatoes, celery, potatoes and sweet bell peppers finish out the "dirty dozen". Anyone who frequently eats hot peppers should buy organic, it says. If you can not find or afford organic hot peppers, cook them, because pesticide levels typically diminish when food is cooked.

Topping the Clean Fifteen list is avocados and sweet corn, with less than one percent of samples showing traces of detectable pesticides. The tests found 230 different pesticides and pesticide breakdown products on the samples.

Avocados and sweet corn lead the pack.

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