Pesky Pesticides: Which Foods Have the Highest Residue?

Strawberries and spinach are two foods with the highest residue from pesticides, according to a new study.

The Environmental Working Group’s report, released last week, also said that 70 percent of produce sold in the United States is covered in chemicals that comprise pesticides.

In their 2019 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce report, they ranked twelve fruits and vegetables that contained the most pesticide residue in a list called the Dirty Dozen.” Kale, nectarines, peaches, and cherries also ranked among the most chemical-laden.

The study found that 90 percent of the samples of strawberries, apples, cherries, spinach, nectarines, and kale tested positive for two or more pesticide residues. More astoundingly, researchers found that kale was awash with 18 different pesticides.

“The most frequently detected pesticide, found on nearly 60 percent of kale samples, was Dacthal, or DCPA—classified by the Environmental Protection Agency since 1995 as a possible human carcinogen, and prohibited for use in Europe since 2009,” according to the EWG report summary.

Among other findings, sweet corn and avocados were the “cleanest” produce. Some of the other foods that had low levels of residual pesticides include cauliflower, broccoli, pineapple, kiwi and mushrooms.

“Eating organic is a great thing you can do for your health,” said Gillian Arathuzik, a registered dietitian at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center, “While the results of this study are concerning, it is important to underscore the importance of fruits and vegetables to a healthy diet.”

If your budget is tight, focusing on the so-called “dirty dozen” will help save money rather than buying everything organic. Also, buying foods with an outside skin, such as avocados or pineapple, can reduce your pesticide exposure significantly.

Check out the EWG’s “Clean Fifteen” to see which produce has lower levels of residue.

*The content on this website is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Please consult a physician regarding your specific medical condition, diagnosis and/or treatment.

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