Pesticides were found at detectable levels in dozens of fruit leather strips and dried fruit samples, according to the results of new Environmental Working Group testing. These two fruit treats are among the most popular children’s snacks.
EWG’s tests were conducted in 2021 and 2022 by an independent laboratory on 37 samples of organic and conventional fruit leather from 10 well-known brands, including 365 Whole Foods Market, Bear, Bob Snail, Good & Gather, Stretch Island, That’s It, and Trader Joe’s. In addition, 30 samples of dried fruit from 16 brands were tested.
Detectable levels of pesticides known to harm people were found in all 26 samples of non-organic fruit leather tested and in half of the non-organic samples of dried fruit.
“These results confirm what we already know – choosing organic produce can help lower your pesticide exposure,” said Sydney Evans, EWG science analyst. “This holds true whether the produce is dried or fresh.”
Exposure to pesticides has been linked to hormone disruption, changes to the reproductive and nervous systems, kidney and liver damage, cancer, and birth defects.
Because of their small size and rapidly developing bodies, children are especially vulnerable to harm from the potential toxicity of pesticide residues, according to a 2012 study from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
In addition to health concerns from pesticide residue, fruit leather and dried fruit also have higher concentrations of sugar than fresh fruit, probably due to the dehydrating process.
“Fresh fruit is always the best choice,” said Evans. “But dried fruit and fruit leather can be an easy way to ensure you’re getting your recommended daily servings.” If you’re buying dried fruit, choose organic produce or, whenever possible, choose conventionally grown produce from the EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce Clean Fifteen list.
“And if you’re buying fruit leather, choose organic or check the label to see what it’s made of,” Evans said. “Consider sticking with products made from the items on our Clean Fifteen list.”
Fruit leather and dried fruit can be part of a healthy diet, but consumers should be aware of the high levels of sugar and potential for pesticide exposure when choosing them, she said.