07/19/2024

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The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recently released its annual Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, which includes two lists: the “Dirtiest Twelve” and the “Clean Fifteen,” ranking which types of fruits and vegetables have the highest and lowest levels of pesticides, respectively. Ranking. Pesticide residues, respectively.

But what should consumers do with this information? How harmful is it to eat fruits and vegetables with pesticide residues? According to experts, this is what you need to know, including how to safely eat your favorite produce.

What is the “Dirty Dozen”?
The EWG’s Dirty Dozen is a list of the non-organic foods that contain the most pesticide residues. EWG analyzed the most recent test samples from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Pesticide Data Program (PDP) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). For real consumer data, the USDA washes, scrubs and peels (if necessary) fruits and vegetables as people typically do, and then tests for pesticides.

Which fruits and vegetables have the highest pesticide levels?
The EWG found that 99 percent of strawberry samples (the most recent tested in 2015-16) detected at least one pesticide residue, making strawberries No. 1. In addition, this year, the group found more pesticide residues in bell peppers and peppers than ever before, moving from 12th to 7th place. The EWG also found that conventional spinach had an average of 1.8 times more pesticide residues than the other crops tested, while kale, collard greens and mustard greens had the highest pesticide residues.

This is the complete list of EWG Dirty Dozen.

Strawberries
Spinach
Kale, collard greens and mustard
Nectarines
Apples
Grapes
Sweet and hot peppers
Cherries
Peaches
Pears
Celery
Tomatoes
Which fruits and vegetables have the lowest pesticide levels?
The opposite of Dirty Dozen is the EWG’s Clean 15 – a list of fruits and vegetables with the lowest pesticide residues, with about 70% of the samples having no detectable amounts. It’s worth noting that many of these foods have an outer layer, which you typically remove before eating.

Avocado
Sweet corn
Pineapple
Onions
Papaya
Sweet peas (frozen)
Asparagus
Honeydew melon
Kiwi
Cabbage
Mushrooms
Cantaloupe
Mango
Watermelon
Sweet potatoes
How harmful is it to eat produce that contains permitted pesticides?
Erika Crowl, acting agricultural assistant at the University of Maryland Extension, tells Yahoo Life that pesticides can be harmful enough.

But Dr. Marybeth Mitcham, a nutrition, food safety and healthy living educator with Cornell University Cooperative Extension, told Yahoo Life that the Environmental Protection Agency “sets a standard for allowable pesticide use that is more than 100 times less than the lowest dose that can be used. harm to humans.”

Maxine Smith, a registered dietitian with the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Human Nutrition, explained that the EPA also considers populations that may be more vulnerable to pesticides, such as infants and children. Smith told Yahoo Lifestyle, “There is no strong evidence that consuming conventional produce treated with synthetic pesticides can harm a person’s health.”

A useful tool for determining overdoses is the Pesticide Residue Calculator created by the Alliance for Food and Farming (AFF), a nonprofit organization representing organic and conventional farmers. The AFF shows that adult men and women can safely eat 635 and 453 servings of conventional strawberries a day, respectively. Eight strawberries per serving equates to 5,080 and 3,624 strawberries, respectively, which is an almost impossible amount to actually eat.

What is the validity of these reports?
The EWG believes that the EPA is not sufficiently stringent in its tolerance of pesticide levels and has not considered updated studies of pesticides. However, the actual toxicity of pesticides is not included in the EWG’s reports – one reason why the Dirty Dozen list has been criticized for its poor methodology. The EWG itself says that its shopping guide “does not include risk assessment in its calculations. All pesticides are weighted equally, and we do not consider what the EPA considers acceptable levels.”

Crowell said, “These types of lists are not based on unbiased, science-based information, but are used more as scare tactics.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Smith noted that “Americans have fallen far behind” when it comes to consuming produce, with only about 10 percent of adults meeting the recommendations for fruit and vegetable intake. Experts believe these lists may discourage people from buying foods that actually have a lot of nutritional value. This can be seen in a study in Nutrition Today, which found that participants were less likely to buy any kind of produce after seeing information about the use of pesticides to name specific fruits and vegetables. Is organic actually better?
“Organic foods have been shown to reduce pesticide levels in the body and increase specific micronutrients, such as phytochemicals, but whether this difference has a positive impact on human health is still up in the air,” Smith explained. “More high-quality research is needed before recommendations can be changed to limit/avoid conventional products.”

Crowell believes that “organically grown products should not be labeled as ‘better’ than conventional products” because organic production also uses pesticides, even though they are “natural” rather than synthetic. not synthetic.

However, “for some people, the environmental issues associated with organic farming will make organic produce their first choice,” Meacham notes.

How can you reduce the amount of pesticide residues on your favorite fruits and vegetables?
Washing your produce before eating “not only removes debris and residues from the produce, but also removes foodborne microorganisms,” Crowl says. The FDA recommends that you always wash fresh produce under running water before eating it, even if you don’t plan to eat the peel.

Dr. Shauna Henley, senior agent for family and consumer sciences at the University of Maryland Extension, cautions against using chlorine bleach or soap to clean produce because of the chemical hazards associated with ingesting them.

The best way to clean produce depends on its surface, Henley told Yahoo Lifestyle. Use a produce brush on rough surfaces such as squash; rub smooth surfaces such as apples by hand; try a colander or salad spinner for leafy greens, making sure to throw away the outside leaves first. Or try a baking soda solution: a 2017 study found that soaking apples in a mixture of baking soda and water for 12 to 15 minutes can remove pesticide residues.

So what should we really be eating?
The EWG encourages choosing organic products whenever possible, and if they’re not available or affordable, choose the Clean 15 option. But experts say the most important thing you can do for your health is to eat more fruits and vegetables, whether organic or non-organic.

Smith recommends choosing a variety of produce because “it not only optimizes nutrition, but minimizes the likelihood of any one food containing more pesticide residues becoming a problem.”

As Mitcham emphasizes, “The benefits of eating [conventional] spinach, strawberries, kale and apples far outweigh the downsides. Just remember to wash your produce before you eat it.”

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