More than 70 percent of non-organic fresh produce sold in the U.S. contains residues of potentially harmful pesticides, The Environmental Working Group’s 2022 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce finds.
This year’s version of the guide, which analyzes the latest test data from the Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration, also reveals that over 50 percent of potatoes, spinach, lettuce and eggplant had detectable levels of at least one of three bee-killing neonic insecticides banned in the European Union but still allowed for use on U.S. produce.
A critical part of a healthy diet includes a combination of fruits and vegetables, regardless of how they are grown. But anyone worried about consuming potentially harmful pesticides should know that many are found on fruits and vegetables, even after they are washed, peeled or scrubbed, which the USDA does before testing.
Numerous peer-reviewed scientific studies have shown that consuming produce high in pesticide residue, like the items on the EWG’s Dirty Dozen list, increases the risk of certain negative health impacts, and that choosing organic can almost immediately reduce the amounts of residues in a person’s body.
Recent research from Harvard University shows that consuming fruits and vegetables with high levels of pesticide residues may decrease the beneficial effects of fruit and vegetable consumption, including protection against cardiovascular disease and mortality.
EWG’s 2022 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce combines data from USDA and FDA tests from 2020 and nine years earlier, with the exception of pineapple data, which is from 2002. The newest data released by the agencies included results of tests of nearly 45,000 samples of produce. The USDA does not test every type of produce every year.
The USDA also does not test fruits and vegetables for all pesticides used in crop production. For example, glyphosate is the most heavily used pesticide in the U.S., and it can be found in high levels on several grains and beans, such as oats and chickpeas. But the USDA has not analyzed these crops for glyphosate. This is troubling, because tests commissioned by EWG found almost three-fourths of popular oat-based food samples, including many popular with children, had pesticide residue levels higher than what EWG scientists consider protective of children’s health.
Read more here about EWG’s research into glyphosate on these foods.
EWG’s Dirty Dozen for 2022
Kale, collard and mustard greens
Bell and hot peppers
New findings for 2022
As in previous years, several pepper samples contain concerning levels of pesticides that can harm the nervous system, including oxamyl, acephate and chlorpyrifos – carbamate and organophosphate insecticides banned from use on some U.S. crops and entirely in the EU.
Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency moved ahead with a long overdue ban of chlorpyrifos on food crops. Any future detections of chlorpyrifos will indicate uses that violate this ban.
Article adapted from ewg.org.