How worried should parents be?
The Environmental Working Group recently released its annual list of produce items with the highest levels of pesticide residue, which they dub the Dirty Dozen. They are the 12 fruits and vegetables that those worried about consuming pesticides should always buy organic, the group says.
Strawberries, regular culprits, top the list again, but the group also called out raisins for the first time, calling them “the dirtiest produce commodity.”
According to EWG, almost 70 percent of the fresh produce sold in the United States has residues of pesticides. Their annual Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce analyzes Department of Agriculture data, which tests washed and peeled produce, to identify the fresh fruits and vegetables that are most and least contaminated.
The Dirty Dozen and its counter-list, the Clean Fifteen, include fresh fruits and vegetables only, but this year’s Shopper’s Guide also included a separate evaluation of raisins, which the USDA tested for the first time since 2007.
Almost every sample of non-organic raisins tested by the USDA – 99 percent – had residues of at least two pesticides, as did 91 percent of organic raisins, according to the EWG.
“If we included raisins in our calculations, they would be number one on the Dirty Dozen,” said EWG Toxicologist Thomas Galligan, Ph.D.
Children under the age of 15 eat a total of about 208 million pounds of raisins each year – about half of the raisins consumed in the U.S., according to Zion Market Research. The average American consumed about 1.25 pounds of raisins in 2017, the latest year for which the USDA has information. Zion’s industry analysis shows that slightly less than two-thirds of raisins are consumed as ingredients in other foods, with the rest eaten as a stand-alone snack.
Additionally, USDA data showed that more than 90 percent of samples of strawberries, apples, cherries, spinach, nectarines, and kale had residues of two or more pesticides.
But some experts say we shouldn’t worry too much, pointing out that the mere presence of pesticide residue doesn’t necessarily equal harm. A study published in the Journal of Toxicology noted that levels of pesticides detected are “negligible” and that the Dirty Dozen list “fails to relate exposures to such residues with established health criteria.”
“Consumer exposures to the ten most common pesticides found on the ‘Dirty Dozen’ commodities are several orders of magnitude below levels required to cause any biological effect,” the study says.
Still, consumers who are concerned about pesticide consumption may want to consider buying produce from the EWG’s Clean Fifteen list, which showed little, if any, pesticide residues.
You can read more about the 2020 rankings here.
The Dirty Dozen
The Clean Fifteen
Sweet peas (frozen)