Strawberries jump to top of “Dirty Dozen” list of pesticide-contaminated fruits

Apple growers may have something new to cheer about. According to the Environmental Working Group, for the first time in five years the popular fruit has escaped the much-reviled position at the top of the list of the most heavily pesticide-contaminated fruit.

The apple, which comes in thousands of varieties, was nudged into second place by the burgeoning strawberry.

(c) Cold truth

(c) Cold truth

Strawberries made the top of the list after USDA’s most recent pesticide testing of 6,953 produce items. Three-quarters of the ready-for-market produce samples showed residue from several of the 146 different pesticides, reported EWG, a nonprofit organization that says it’s dedicated to protecting human health and the environment.  

For example, nearly all strawberry samples — 98 percent — tested by federal officials had detectable pesticide residues. Forty percent had residues of 10 or more pesticides. Several had residues of 17 different pesticides.

“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.

Ever wonder why strawberries, which were once a seasonal crop, can be bought almost year-round now? You can thank the heavy use of pesticides, which EWG says has increased yield and stretched the growing season. The environmental group explains that in California, the leading U.S. source for strawberries, each acre is treated with 300 pounds of pesticides, 60 pounds of which may leave post-harvest contamination.

“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,” said Lunder, who recommends buying organic fruits and vegetables if you want to avoid pesticides on your food.


For more information, check out the working group’s website.

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