How Dirty Are Your Fruits and Veggies?

Every year since 1995, Environmental Working Group activists publish a “Dirty Dozen” list of fruits and vegetables which contain the most pesticide residues. The list certainly sounds scary, and it generates a host of alarming headlines. But the good news is it doesn’t take much effort to expose the EWG’s weak science and fearmongering arguments.

peer-reviewed study that looked into the produce EWG continually criticizes as the “dirtiest” found that “all pesticide exposure estimates were well below established chronic reference doses.” A chronic reference dose is the maximum amount of a substance that humans can safely eat over a long period of time. The measurement even takes sensitive populations like children and pregnant women into consideration.

But people may eat many servings of one fruit or vegetable each day, so the maximum amount of a pesticide that can be on produce when it leaves the farm is even lower.

Let’s look at 2018’s “dirtiest” fruit, strawberries.

A child could consume 181 servings of strawberries in one day (and that’s 181 cups, not individual berries) without any safety risk — even if every single strawberry had the highest pesticide residue recorded for strawberries by USDA. As we’ve shown before, the dose is essential when it comes to assessing the dangers of pesticides or any toxin.

Out of 1,174 batches of strawberries checked in 2015 and 2016, only 2 percent actually tested above the government’s safety threshold. When this happens, the FDA and EPA are immediately notified. If the FDA determines that the pesticide residues are high enough to impact public health, the agency can remove the tainted samples before they wind up in grocery stores.

That’s why the USDA tests for pesticide residues in the first place – to make sure farmers aren’t over-spraying their crops, and that the food they sell is safe.

This annual campaign from the Environmental Working Group is an effort to scare consumers away from eating conventional or genetically modified foods. EWG is leading efforts to ban GMOS, even though the overwhelming volume of scientific research shows these foods are safe to eat.

Remember: fruits and vegetables are keys to a healthy diet, so stick to the science and don’t let the EWG ruin your appetite.