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The Environmental Working Group has once again listed strawberries and spinach at the top of its annual Dirty Dozen list — along with kale, a leafy green that has gone from trendy to ubiquitous in recent years.
The EWG bases its list, which is not peer-reviewed, on annual reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Data Program.
More than than 99% of produce samples tested for that report had pesticide residues acceptable to the EPA, but EWG believes the federal standards are insufficient. Alternately, dieticians insist that the benefits of eating all fruits and vegetables outweigh the possible pesticide exposure.
Here’s the full list of EWG’s “Dirty Dozen” for 2019:
EWG also mentioned hot peppers in the “Dirty Dozen” category.
Along with dietitians, members of the fresh produce industry push back against the list, especially because research has shown that disparaging certain fruits and vegetables may influence low-income consumers in particular to buy less produce overall.
“US Apple’s consumer education efforts focus on science-based reasons to eat more wholesome foods like apples — not less,” U.S. Apple Association president and CEO Jim Bair said in a news release. “The Surgeon General and leading health organizations agree there is far greater health risk from not eating fruits and vegetables than from any theoretical risk that might be posed by consuming trace amounts of pesticide residues.”
For its “Clean Fifteen,” EWG selected the following:
- Sweet corn
- Sweet peas (frozen)
The Alliance for Food and Farming has a pesticide calculator that allows consumers to see, based on peer-reviewed research, how many servings a child, woman or man could eat of any produce item before damage from pesticide residue could occur.
A statement from their website reads as follows:
Scientists and health experts overwhelmingly agree that the mere presence of pesticide residues on food does not mean they are harmful.
Health experts and scientists say produce, grown either conventionally or organically, is safe to eat for you and your children. Not only are conventionally and organically grown fruits and vegetables safe and nutritious, Americans should be consuming more of these, not less, if they hope to reduce their risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
When considering the safety of any substance, it is important to understand what is known as a “dose-response relationship.” This means that almost every substance — even water or oxygen — can be toxic at some level. For every product there is a point, or a dose level, that will not produce a response in a living organism. In the world of pesticide regulation, that point is called the No Observed Adverse Effect Level.
The United States Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Data Program has been in existence since 1991 and is designed to continually measure pesticide residues on food to ensure they are safe to eat by any age group — especially children — over a long period of time.