Americans eat almost 8 pounds of fresh strawberries per person each year, and even when they are rinsed in the field and washed before eating, they are still most likely to be contaminated with pesticide residue, according to the Environmental Working Group. Same with the celery, spinach, peaches, pears and tomatoes you picked up at the supermarket. EWG's annual update of its "Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce" - which is based on an analysis of tests run by the US Department of Agriculture - found that the most contaminated sample of strawberries had a whopping 20 different pesticides.
For the Dirty Dozen list, EWG singled out produce with the highest loads of pesticide residues. They all tested positive for a number of different pesticides and had a higher concentration of the synthetic chemicals than other produce. "This is a good wake-up call for them".
For the second year in a row, strawberries topped the bad part of the list, also known as "The Dirty Dozen".
"EWG's list has been discredited by scientists, it is not based upon risk and has now been shown to potentially discourage consumption of healthy and safe organic and conventional fruits and vegetables". On the other hand, the cleanest farm products are avocados, cabbage, papayas, mangoes, cauliflower, grapefruit, and melon. It ranks the best and worst produce when it comes to pesticide content.
But critics say reports like these could be scaring people away from buying any fruits or vegetables.
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Spinach samples had, on average, twice as much pesticide residue by weight than any other crop.
An annual report by the Environmental Working Group found that almost 70% of samples of 48 types of conventionally grown produce were contaminated with pesticide residues.
"Even low levels of pesticide exposure can be harmful to infants, babies and young children, so when possible, parents and caregivers should take steps to lower children's exposures to pesticides while still feeding them diets rich in healthy fruits and vegetables", said Dr. Phillip Landrigan of the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in NY.
More than 80 percent of pineapples, papayas, asparagus, onions and cabbage had no pesticide residues.
The EWG Shoppers Guide was released the same day as another report by the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to food was presented to the world body. The study found these foods contained few pesticides and pesticide residue.