- 2016 brings a new top toxic winner
- The USDA washes its fruit — but not well enough…
- The FDA’s laid-back approach could kill you.
It’s that time of year again. And I’m not referring to the weather.
No, this time I am talking about the annual release of Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) list of the top 12 conventionally raised fruits and vegetables covered in high levels of pesticides — referred to as the Dirty Dozen.
The report is backed by an analysis of samples taken by both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on over more than 35,200 pieces of fruits and vegetables.
What’s most alarming about their results — most of these samples were washed and/or peeled by USDA employees in order to copy shopper practices as closely as possible. This means unwashed produce likely contains higher levels of pesticide.
Per their website, the EWG uses the following six measures of pesticide exposure to compare foods:
- Percent of samples tested with detectable pesticides
- Percent of samples with two or more detectable pesticides
- Average number of pesticides found on a single sample
- Average amount of pesticides found, measured in parts per million
- Maximum number of pesticides found on a single sample
- Total number of pesticides found on the commodity.
The different produces are then ranked based on their test results, which are then converted to a 1–100 scale, with higher scores representing more pesticide contamination.
Here is what they came up with, highest to lowest:
- Sweet bell peppers
- Cherry tomatoes
This year, apples lost their five-year streak of toxic terror at the top of the list to strawberries — 98 percent of the strawberry samples tested positive for pesticide residues.
Photo credit: EWG.org
One reason for this could be the result of the European ban on diphenylamine, which also may have affected American apple supplies, according to EWG senior analyst Sonya Lunder.
And the truly frightening part? Forty percent of strawberries had the residues of between 10–17 pesticides on them. One source of pesticide could be a nerve gas, methyl bromide, used to treat fields before planting even begins.
Lunder went on to explain:
It is startling to see how heavily strawberries are contaminated with residues of hazardous pesticides, but even more shocking is that these residues don’t violate the weak U.S. laws and regulations on pesticides in food. The EPA’s levels of residues allowed on produce are too lax to protect Americans’ health. They should be updated to reflect new research that shows even very small doses of toxic chemicals can be harmful, particularly for young children.2
If organic isn’t an option for you when it comes to the Dirty Dozen, you might consider a substitute or, at the very least, do a triple wash and thorough scrub.
Managing editor, Living Well Daily