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Apples top high pesticide list for fifth straight year

Apples Pink LadyApples, peaches, and nectarines topped the list of the dirtiest, or most pesticide-contaminated, fruits and vegetables, an analysis of U.S. government data finds.

Apples had 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 the Environmental Working Group for its 2015 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce contained pesticide residues.

The 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.”

The EWG’s Shopper’s Guide 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 the EWG provides is valuable for consumers because pesticides have been linked to a number of health problems, including cancer and lower IQ in children, Cook said.

The Shopper’s Guide, updated every year since 2004, is broken down into two 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, the EWG highlights these items in its Dirty Dozen Plus category.

Avocados were the cleanest item on the list, with only 1 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.

Copyright 2015, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist

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