After a five-year reign, apples have been replaced as the most pesticide-ridden produce. Strawberries climbed the charts, going from No. 4 in 2015 to the top spot on the 2016 Environmental Working Group's (EWG) Shopper's Guide to Produce. The top 12 spots on the guide are known as the Dirty Dozen. They are the conventionally grown fruits and vegetables found to have the highest pesticide loads.
Here are some of EWG's findings about the dirtiest fruit, strawberries. Remember these findings in the study are for conventionally grown produce, not organically grown fruits and vegetables.
- 98 percent of strawberry samples had detectable pesticide residue; 40 percent of them had the residues of 10 or more pesticides. Some had traces of as many as 17 different pesticides.
- Strawberry growers use 60 different pesticides in various combinations.
- In California, where most of the U.S. strawberries are grown, 300 pounds of pesticides are used on each acre. Some of those are fumigants, volatile poisonous gases that can drift out of the fields and to residential neighborhoods and schools.
- Strawberries used to be a seasonal crop, but to meet year-round demand, more and more pesticides have been used to stretch the growing season and increase the yield.
“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,” said Sonya Lunder, EWG senior analyst. “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.”
The 2016 Dirty Dozen
These are the 12 fruits and vegetables that made the infamous list. EWG recommends that shoppers buy organic versions of these foods to minimize the amount of pesticides consumed.
- Bell peppers
- Cherry tomatoes
The Clean Fifteen
The bottom of the list are the cleanest fruits and vegetables in terms of pesticide load. They contained "relatively few pesticides." If you can't afford to purchase all organic fruits and vegetables, the EWG recommends buying the Dirty Dozen in their organic form and the Clean Fifteen in their conventional form.
- Sweet Peas