Top Foods With Pesticide Residue: Strawberries, Spinach, and Kale

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) every year analyzes test data from the Agriculture Department to identify which fruits and vegetables are most and least contaminated with pesticide residue to produce a list they call the Dirty Dozen. This year’s list had a surprise entrant — kale — “more than 92 percent of conventionally grown kale samples had at least two or more pesticide residues. Some samples contained residues from as many as 18 different pesticides.”   Here are some additional highlights from the report:

  • More than 90 percent of samples of strawberries, apples, cherries, spinach, nectarines, and kale tested positive for residues of two or more pesticides.
  • Kale and spinach samples had, on average, 10 to 80 percent more pesticide residue by weight than any other crop.
  • Avocados and sweet corn were the cleanest. Less than 1 percent of samples showed any detectable pesticides.
  • More than 70 percent of fruit and vegetable samples on the Clean Fifteen list had no pesticide residues.

The EWG also comes up with a list of the Clean Fifteen —  fruits and vegetables with the least pesticide residues.  The EWG notes also that “since 2012, the American Academy of Pediatricians Council on Environmental Health has emphasized that children’s exposure to pesticides should be as limited as possible because pesticide exposure during pregnancy and early childhood increases the risk of brain tumors, leukemia, neurodevelopmental defects, and other adverse birth outcomes.”  The data the EWG analyzed is the result of tests conducted by the government, in which they found the residues of 225 different pesticides on fruits and vegetables that Americans eat every day, but note that the risk of consuming pesticide residue isn’t assessed by the government.

Why This Matters: Experts still recommend that you eat more fruits and veggies despite these pesticide residues.  Fresh and whole (rather than processed) fruits and vegetables are essential to a good diet. I (Monica) was surprised that the foods tested had been thoroughly washed and peeled, just as consumers would prepare food at home.  So it is concerning.  Even foods labeled as “organic” may have pesticide residues —  so they may be better but it is not a guarantee.  Eating more of the clean dozen will definitely minimize exposure. What we really need is for the government to do more testing on these pesticides to determine whether our exposure to them should be limited or certain pesticides should be banned (see our story yesterday about Roundup).  Congress in 2016 revised the law governing the use of toxic chemicals, and the EPA announced yesterday that in compliance with this law it is doing expanded testing on 20 “high priority” chemicals.  But whether they will take a hard look at those top priority toxins, much less expand the list to look at the pesticides that come up most often in the Agriculture Department tests, is doubtful.

To Go Deeper:  You can read the full EWG Report here.  And there is an excellent book (Rachel Carson winner for the best environmental book of 2018) called Whitewash that investigated the efforts by Monsanto to keep the evidence of the cancer link to its product Roundup out of the news.

Up Next

Oyster Sales Bounce Back After A Meager Pandemic Year

Oyster Sales Bounce Back After A Meager Pandemic Year

by Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer A year ago, things seemed bad for New Jersey’s oyster growers — restaurants shut down during the pandemic, hampering the oyster market, and sending farmers into a tailspin. But now, sales are back and better than ever. Scott Lennox, a founder of the Barnegat Oyster Collective, told the New York […]

Continue Reading 418 words
Climate Change Threatens Maine’s Wild Blueberries 

Climate Change Threatens Maine’s Wild Blueberries 

By Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer Maine’s wild blueberries may be in trouble. Scientists at the University of Maine have found that the state’s blueberry fields are warming at a much faster rate than the rest of New England. This could dry out the soil, threatening the beloved berries and the farmers who grow them. […]

Continue Reading 455 words
Upward Growth for Indoor Farms

Upward Growth for Indoor Farms

by Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer Indoor farms have become increasingly attractive to investors as ways to solve pandemic-induced disruptions to the harvesting, shipping, and sale of food. Vertical farms grow produce indoors in layers or vertical apparatuses inside warehouses or shipping containers. Artificial light, temperature control, and minimal soil use could make indoor farming […]

Continue Reading 630 words

Want the planet in your inbox?

Subscribe to the email that top lawmakers, renowned scientists, and thousands of concerned citizens turn to each morning for the latest environmental news and analysis.