April 12, 2016 | By Ashley Hayes | WebMD Health News
Strawberries claim the top spot on this year’s “Dirty Dozen” list of produce containing pesticides, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
Apples, which had topped the annual list for the past five years, dropped to second. The list was released Tuesday.
Nearly all strawberry samples tested – 98% — had detectable pesticide residues, according to the advocacy group. Forty percent had residues of 10 or more pesticides, while some had residues of 17 different pesticides.
Some of those chemicals are “relatively benign,” according to the organization, but others may be linked to diseases, hormone disruption, neurological problems and reproductive or developmental damage.
“It is startling to see how heavily strawberries are contaminated with residues of hazardous pesticides,” says Sonya Lunder, EWG senior analyst, in a statement. The levels are acceptable under current regulations; Lunder called for government levels to be updated to reflect the latest research.
Avocadoes, meanwhile, topped the EWG’s “Clean Fifteen” list, of produce least likely to be tainted by pesticides.
The group bases its analysis on testing of more than 35,000 samples by the USDA and FDA. USDA washed and peeled the produce to mimic what consumers do at home.
The annual report has received criticism, with some experts saying the rankings are arbitrary and there’s no need to fear conventionally-grown produce .
The “Dirty Dozen” list has been “discredited by the scientific community,” the Alliance for Food & Farming, a nonprofit group including about 50 agricultural associations, commodity groups and individual growers and shippers, in a statement Tuesday.
The EWG bases its report on the USDA Pesticide Data Program report, the Alliance for Food & Farming says, but the USDA has said those findings “pose no safety concern.”
Before a pesticide can be used, the EPA must determine “that it will not pose unreasonable risks to human health or the environment.”
For its part, the EWG says on its website it “always recommends eating fruits and vegetables, even conventionally grown, over processed foods and other less healthy alternatives.”
The 2016 Dirty Dozen list:
10. Sweet bell peppers
11. Cherry tomatoes
Also of note, according to the EWG, are leafy greens such as kale or collard greens and hot peppers. While those foods did not meet traditional ranking criteria for the Dirty Dozen list, they are “frequently found to be contaminated with insecticides toxic to the human nervous system,” according to the report.
The 2016 Clean Fifteen:
2. Sweet corn
5. Frozen sweet peas
12. Honeydew melon