Washington, D.C. – Environmental Working Group has released the eighth edition of its Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™ with updated information on 45 popular fruits and vegetables and their total pesticide loads. EWG highlights the worst offenders with its new Dirty Dozen Plus™ list and the cleanest conventional produce with its list of the Clean Fifteen™.
This shopper’s guide to pesticides in produce gives consumers easy, affordable ways to eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables while avoiding most of the bug killers, fungicides and other chemicals in produce and other foods.
For Immediate Release, June 19, 2012
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EWG Releases 2012 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™
Researchers Highlight Pesticides in Produce, Baby Food, Tap Water
Washington, D.C. – Environmental Working Group has released the eighth edition of its Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™
with updated information on 45 popular fruits and vegetables and their
total pesticide loads. EWG highlights the worst offenders with its new Dirty Dozen Plus™ list and the cleanest conventional produce with its list of the Clean Fifteen™.
“The explosive growth in market share for organic produce in
recent years testifies to a simple fact that pesticide companies and the
farmers who use their products just can’t seem to grasp: people don’t
like to eat food contaminated by pesticides,” said EWG president Ken Cook. “Our
shopper’s guide to pesticides in produce gives consumers easy,
affordable ways to eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables while
avoiding most of the bug killers, fungicides and other chemicals in
produce and other foods.”
“This year’s guide will also give new parents pause,” Cook
added. “Government scientists have found disturbing concentrations of
pesticides in some baby foods. And the U.S. Department of Agriculture
has found weed killers widespread in finished tap water.
Environmentalists have had important successes in forcing pesticides
that presented unacceptably high dietary risks off the market. The
latest USDA tests show we have much more work to do.”
EWG researchers analyzed annual pesticide residue tests conducted by
the USDA and federal Food and Drug Administration between 2000 and 2010.
The samples were first washed or peeled prior to being tested so the
rankings reflect the amounts of the crop chemicals likely present on the
food when is it eaten.
The USDA and FDA tests have produced hard evidence of widespread
presence of pesticide residues on conventional crops. The most recent
round of tests show that as late as 2010, 68 percent of food samples had
detectable pesticide residues. EWG found striking differences between
the number of pesticides and amount of pesticides detected on the Dirty Dozen Plus™and Clean Fifteen™ foods.
- Some 98 percent of conventional apples have detectable levels of pesticides.
- Domestic blueberries tested positive for 42 different pesticide residues.
- Seventy-eight different pesticides were found on lettuce samples.
- Every single nectarine USDA tested had measurable pesticide residues.
- As a category, grapes have more types of pesticides than any other fruit, with 64 different chemicals.
- Thirteen different pesticides were measured on a single sample each of celery and strawberries.
New to the Shopper’s Guide: The Dirty Dozen Plus™
For the past eight years, EWG has scrutinized pesticide testing data
generated by scientists at USDA and FDA and has created its signature Dirty Dozen™ list of foods most commonly contaminated with pesticides. As well, we publish our Clean Fifteen™ list of the foods least likely to be pesticide-tainted.
This year we have expanded the Dirty Dozen™ with a
Plus category to highlight two crops -- green beans and leafy greens,
meaning, kale and collard greens – that did not meet traditional Dirty Dozen™
criteria but were commonly contaminated with highly toxic
organophosphate insecticides. These insecticides are toxic to the
nervous system and have been largely removed from agriculture over the
past decade. But they are not banned and still show up on some food
crops. For this reason, EWG lists these on the new Dirty Dozen Plus™ as foods to avoid or to buy organic.
"Organophosphate pesticides are of special concern since they are associated with neurodevelopmental effects in children,” said EWG toxicologist Johanna Congleton. “Infants
in particular should avoid exposure to these pesticides since they are
more susceptible to the effects of chemical insult than adults."
The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to “minimize using foods in which chemical pesticides or herbicides were used by farmers.”
Pesticides in Baby Food
For the first time since the inception of its pesticide testing
program in 1991, USDA looked at pesticide residues on baby food.
Department scientists analyzed about 190 samples each of prepared baby
food consisting of green beans, pears and sweet potatoes.
Green beans prepared as baby food tested positive for five
pesticides, among them, the organophosphate methamidiphos, which was
found on 9.4 percent of samples, and the organophosphate acephate, on
7.8 percent of samples. EWG analyzed baby food samples in 1995 and
found the two organophosphates in surprisingly similar concentrations.
Pears prepared as baby food showed significant and widespread
contamination. Fully 92 percent of the pear samples tested positive for
at least one pesticide residue, with 26 percent of samples containing 5
or more pesticides and 15 different pesticides on all samples.
Disturbingly, the pesticide iprodione, which EPA has categorized as a
probable human carcinogen, was detected on three baby food pear samples.
Iprodione is not registered with the EPA for use on pears. Its presence
on this popular baby food constitutes a violation of FDA regulations
and the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.
"Federal testing of pesticide residue in baby food was long overdue,
as infants are especially vulnerable to toxic compounds," said Andrew
Weil, MD, Founder and Director, Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine
and a renowned medical expert on natural health and wellness. "Now that
it has begun, the results are highly disturbing. It is bad enough that
baby food contains pesticides at all; the fact that pears contain a
likely human carcinogen is an outrage. Parents should purchase organic
baby foods, or better yet, prepare their own by putting organic foods
through a simple hand-turned food mill (search the internet for "baby
food mill"). It is vital that an infant's developing brain and nervous
system receive only uncontaminated, nutrient-dense foods."
Sweet potatoes sold as baby food, a Clean Fifteen™ crop, had virtually no detectable pesticide residues.
The extent of pesticide contamination document by USDA’s baby food
tests highlight the need for the department to accelerate testing of
baby foods and for EPA to reduce further the organophosphate pesticide
exposures allowed for Americans, especially infants.
Pesticides in Drinking water
In 2010 USDA analyzed samples from 12 community drinking water
systems that use surface water such as reservoirs, lakes and rivers as
their water sources. Tests of 284 samples taken after treatment detected
65 pesticides or their metabolites. The toxic herbicide atrazine or its
metabolites were found in every single sample. The herbicides 2,4-D
and metolachlor were detected in more than 70 percent of the samples.
Six other pesticides were found in at least half the samples.
The footprint of pesticide residues for those items placed on the Clean Fifteen™ looked much better.
The produce least likely to test positive for pesticides were
asparagus, avocado, cabbage, grapefruit, watermelon, eggplants,
pineapples, mushrooms, onions, frozen peas and sweet potatoes.
More than 90 percent of cabbage, asparagus, sweet peas, eggplant
and sweet potato samples had one or fewer pesticides detected. Of the Clean Fifteen™ vegetables, no single sample had more than 5 different chemicals, and no single fruit sample from the Clean Fifteen™ had more than 5 types of pesticides detected.
The EWG’s Shopper’s Guide™ is not built on a complex
assessment of pesticide risks but instead reflects the overall pesticide
loads of common fruits and vegetables. This approach best captures the
uncertainties of the risks of pesticide exposure. Since researchers are
constantly developing new insights into how pesticides act on living
organisms, no one can say that concentrations of pesticides assumed
today to be safe are, in fact, harmless.
The Shopper’s Guide™ aims to give consumers confidence
that by following EWG’s advice, they can buy foods with consistently
lower overall levels of pesticide contamination.
EWG is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, DC that
uses the power of information to protect human health and the