Apples, peaches, and nectarines topped EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce Dirty Dozen™ list of the dirtiest, or most pesticide-contaminated, fruits and vegetables, a new analysis of U.S. government data found. Apples turned up with the highest number of pesticides for the fifth year in a row, while peaches and nectarines moved up to the second and third spots.
Nearly two-thirds of produce samples tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and analyzed by EWG for the 2015 Shopper’s Guide contained pesticide residues – a surprising finding in the face of soaring consumer demand for food without agricultural chemicals, EWG reported. EWG said that USDA tests found a total 165 different pesticides on thousands of fruit and vegetables samples examined in 2013.
“The bottom line is people do not want to eat pesticides with their fruits and vegetables,” said Ken Cook, EWG’s president and cofounder. “That’s why we will continue telling shoppers about agricultural chemicals that turn up on their produce, and we hope we will inform, and ultimately, empower them to eat cleaner.”
Published today, EWG’s 2015 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™ ranked 48 different fruits and vegetables by the total number of pesticides found on them. The guide is based on testing by the USDA and the federal Food and Drug Administration. The information EWG provides is valuable for consumers because pesticides have been linked to a number of health problems, including cancer and lower IQ in children.
The Shopper’s Guide, updated every year since 2004, is broken down into two easy-to-use lists, the Dirty Dozen™ and the Clean Fifteen™. The Dirty Dozen™ list includes the top 12 fruits and vegetables with the highest amounts of pesticide residues, while the Clean 15™ list has the 15 cleanest, or least contaminated produce. Apples tend to have the most pesticides because of the chemicals applied to the crop before and after harvest to preserve them longer the analysts said.
Other produce items on the 2015 Dirty Dozen™ list are strawberries, grapes, celery, spinach, sweet bell peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas and potatoes.
Since leafy greens and hot peppers were frequently contaminated with insecticides that are particularly toxic to human health, EWG highlights these items in its Dirty Dozen Plus™ category.
Avocados were the cleanest item on the list, with only one percent of samples showing any detectable pesticides. Other items on the 2015 Clean Fifteen™ list include sweet corn, pineapples, cabbage, sweet peas (frozen), onions, asparagus, mangoes, papayas, kiwi, eggplant, grapefruit, cantaloupe, and cauliflower.
“We are saying, eat your fruits and vegetables,” said Sonya Lunder, EWG’s senior analyst. “But know which ones have the highest amounts of pesticides so you can opt for the organic versions, if available and affordable, or grab a snack off the Clean Fifteen™.”
A recent study shows people who buy organic produce have lower levels of organophosphate insecticides measured in their bodies even though they eat more produce than people who buy mostly conventional grown fruits and vegetables.
EWG analysts use six metrics to rank produce including, the total number of pesticides detected on a crop and the percent of samples tested with detectable pesticides.
Additionally, the rankings are incorporated into the overall produce scores in EWG’s Food Scores: Rate Your Plate database, which houses ingredient and rating information on more than 80,000 foods, including fruits and vegetables. The favorable scores for produce reflect the fact that eating more fruit and vegetables is a healthier choice.