Every year the EWG releases its Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™ listing the Dirty Dozen™, fruits and vegetables with the most pesticide residues, and the Clean Fifteen™, for which few, if any, residues were detected in the USA.
For the 2018 Dirty Dozen™ list, EWG singled out produce with the highest loads of pesticide residues. Strawberries topped the list followed by spinach, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, potatoes, and sweet bell peppers. The EWG reports that each of these foods tested positive for a number of different pesticide residues and contained higher concentrations of pesticides than other produce.
- More than 98 percent of samples of strawberries, spinach, peaches, nectarines, cherries, and apples tested positive for residue of at least one pesticide.
- A single sample of strawberries showed 20 different pesticides.
- 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.
According to the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver, and the Special Rapporteur on Toxics, Baskut Tuncak “excessive use of pesticides are very dangerous to human health, to the environment and it is misleading to claim they are vital to ensuring food security.” The UN experts warn that certain pesticides can persist in the environment for decades and pose a threat to the entire ecological system on which food production depends. The excessive use of pesticides contaminates soil and water sources, causing loss of biodiversity, destroying the natural enemies of pests, and reducing the nutritional value of food. The impact of such overuse also imposes staggering costs on national economies around the world.
People Who Eat Organic Produce Eat Fewer Pesticides
Organic food is grown in harmony with nature, free of harmful chemicals. By rotating crops and selecting crop varieties with a natural resistance to particular pests and diseases, organic farmers are able to reduce or avoid disease problems and the need to control them with chemical inputs. Moreover, research has found that eating an organic diet for a week can cause pesticide levels to drop by almost 90% in adults
The Clean Fifteen
EWG’s Clean Fifteen list of produce least likely to contain pesticide residues included avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbages, onions, frozen sweet peas, papayas, asparagus, mangoes, eggplants, honeydews, kiwis, cantaloupes, cauliflower, and broccoli. Relatively few pesticides were detected on these foods, and tests found low total concentrations of pesticide residues.