pesticides in food

Ranking of Pesticides in Food

As a consumer, knowing about pesticides in food is important, but you certainly can't tell by looking at them if the produce is relatively free of pesticide residue or not.

This is where the Environmental Working Group comes in. Every year they take thousands of samples of the foods we commonly eat and test them for pesticide residue. Their findings are published so we can have a better idea of what is most important to purchase organically.

This year 32,000 samples of fresh produce from various locations were tested. 65% of the samples tested contained pesticide residue.

The number one offender for the 4th year in a row? Apples. 99% of apples were found to contain residue of at least one pesticide. The second was strawberries, with a total of 13 pesticides found and grapes with a variety of 15 pesticides found on the produce.

You might say that we can simply wash the pesticide residue away before we consume these products. Unfortunately it's not that easy. Apples, for example, are sprayed with pesticides at several stages of their growth, which means that the pesticide residue is probably in the apple flesh itself.

Here is the list of EWGs top 51 pesticide containing fresh foods. The foods at the top of the list were found to contain the most pesticide residue. As you go farther down the list they contain far less.

  1. Apples
  2. Strawberries
  3. Grapes
  4. Celery
  5. Peaches
  6. Spinach
  7. Sweet bell peppers
  8. Nectarines (imported into the US)
  9. Cucumbers
  10. Cherry tomatoes
  11. Snap peas (imported)
  12. Potatoes
  13. Hot peppers
  14. Blueberries (domestic)
  15. Lettuce
  16. Kale/collard greens
  17. Plums
  18. Cherries
  19. Nectarines (domestic)
  20. Pears
  21. Tangerines
  22. Carrots
  23. Blueberries (imported)
  24. Green Beans
  25. Winter squash
  26. Summer squash
  27. Raspberries
  28. Broccoli
  29. Snap peas (domestic)
  30. Green onions
  31. Oranges
  32. Bananas
  33. Tomatoes
  34. Watermelon
  35. Honeydew melons
  36. Mushrooms
  37. Sweet potatoes
  38. Cauliflower
  39. Cantaloupe
  40. Grapefruit
  41. Eggplant
  42. Kiwi
  43. Papayas
  44. Mangoes
  45. Asparagus
  46. Onions
  47. Sweet peas (frozen)
  48. Cabbage
  49. Pineapple
  50. Sweet Corn
  51. Avocados

Note: The list does not mention imported from where.

How do you limit pesticides in food?

For one thing, you can choose organic produce - at least for the worst offenders, things like apples, strawberries, grapes and celery.

Wash your produce for at least 30 seconds before eating it. Even better - Use a solution of a few tablespoons of cider vinegar to a gallon of water in your kitchen sink. Let the produce site for several minutes to clean it. Rinse and dry before storing.

Trim away the outer leaves of leafy vegetables. Usually the outer leaves of lettuce are a bit damaged anyway from transport. Removing them removes quite a bit of pesticide residue.

Good news for Canadians: Canadian produce tends to have less pesticide residue. If you live in Canada, choose Canadian produce whenever possible. Not only will you be consuming fewer pesticides. You will be helping your local farmers too.

Wherever you live, check your own countries laws about the limits of pesticide application on produce. See how it compares with this list from the US.

You can also limit pesticides in food by eating locally grown produce from farmers who you can talk to about their pesticide use. Look here for more about the benefits of eating local.

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