ALARMING: Majority of non-organic fruits and vegetables test positive for toxic pesticides

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pesticides-found-in-most-non-organic-produce(NaturalHealth365)  A consumer guide published its annual report on pesticides in foods and is reporting some sobering numbers regarding pesticides in our food.  Almost three-fourths of non-organic vegetables and fruit were found to contain toxic pesticides in unacceptable amounts, with some rating quite high.

EWG’s 2024 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™ revealed that foods on the Dirty Dozen list contain very high amounts of fungicides capable of disrupting human hormones.  The guide, published annually by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), keeps consumers informed about the amount of pesticides found in the foods they eat.

EWG report: Non-organic produce packed with hormone-disrupting fungicides

Four fungicides were found in produce listed on the Dirty Dozen, a compilation of foods typically high in pesticide residue.  These included fludioxonil, pyraclostrobin, boscalid, and pyrimethanil.

These pesticides are frequently used to protect crops against fungal diseases, with fludioxonil and pyrimethanil being especially common due to their efficacy in combating mold and decay.

Pesticides in foods pose significant risks to the health and well-being of humans, with children being the most vulnerable to the damage they can do.  Some common dangers of pesticides in food include harm to the male reproductive system, metabolic disorders and a greater risk of chronic disease.  These chemicals are often endocrine disruptors, which means they can interfere with the body’s endocrine system, which is responsible for producing and regulating hormones.

Why are fungicide levels higher in certain foods?

Pesticides are typically applied to crops while they’re growing to ward off insects and other pests, ensuring the integrity of the harvest.  Following the harvest, fungicide is often used to prevent mold formation during the transit and storage process before the produce reaches grocery stores.

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This timing difference in application can result in higher levels of fungicide in the produce, primarily due to post-harvest treatment.  Conversely, foods tested earlier in the growing season tend to exhibit lower pesticide levels, reflecting the lesser exposure to chemical treatments.

Considering these factors, it becomes evident that organic foods, which are grown without many of these synthetic pesticides and fungicides, offer a compelling argument for their superiority in terms of reduced chemical residue.

What’s on the Dirty Dozen list in 2024?

The Dirty Dozen list for 2024, published by the EWG, contains some of the most nutritious produce.  Unfortunately, the non-organic versions of these foods also show the highest amounts of pesticides and fungicides.

The 2024 Dirty Dozen list includes:

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale, mustard greens, collard greens
  4. Grapes
  5. Peaches
  6. Pears
  7. Nectarines
  8. Apples
  9. Bell peppers and hot peppers
  10. Cherries
  11. Blueberries
  12. Green beans

Experts believe that fungicides are showing up in these foods with such high concentrations because they are applied to the produce later in the farm-to-table process.  Foods obtained from grocery stores have a more complex journey that often involves sitting in warehouses before being distributed.

The Clean 15 in 2024

The Clean 15 is a list published annually by the EWG that identifies conventionally grown fruits and vegetables with the lowest pesticide residue levels.  These foods are deemed to be relatively safer options when purchased as non-organic because they are less likely to contain high levels of pesticide residues.

The latest report from the EWG found that over half (65%) of the foods on the Clean 15 list were free of detectable pesticide residues.  The foods that made it onto the Clean 15 list typically have thick skins or outer layers that provide a natural barrier against pests and reduce the need for extensive pesticide application.

Here are the foods that were featured on the Clean 15 list in 2024:

  1. Sweet corn
  2. Avocados
  3. Pineapple
  4. Onions
  5. Papaya
  6. Sweet peas
  7. Asparagus
  8. Honeydew melon
  9. Kiwi
  10. Cabbage
  11. Watermelon
  12. Mushrooms
  13. Mango
  14. Sweet potatoes
  15. Carrots

Although, the problem with corn (for example) is that the ‘non-organic’ type are genetically modified, so we suggest avoiding this kind of food.

Tips to avoid pesticides in your food

Here are some tips to help you minimize your exposure to pesticides in your food:

  1. Choose organic:  Opt for organic produce whenever possible.  Organic farming practices typically use natural methods for pest control, reducing reliance on synthetic pesticides.
  2. Wash thoroughly:  Rinse fruits and vegetables under running water or (even better) try this fruit and veggie wash to remove unwanted pesticide residues from your produce.  Consider using a produce brush for items with thicker skins.
  3. Peel when necessary:  Peeling fruits and vegetables can further reduce pesticide exposure, especially for produce with edible skins like apples or cucumbers.
  4. Consult the Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen lists:  Refer to these lists to identify produce items with lower pesticide levels.  Use these lists (above in this article) to guide your shopping choices.
  5. Buy local:  Support local farmers’ markets or farm-to-table programs where you can ask about farming practices directly.  Small-scale and local farmers tend to use fewer pesticides or follow organic practices.
  6. Grow your own:  Consider growing your own fruits, vegetables, and herbs in a backyard garden or even in pots on a balcony or windowsill.  This way, you can control the growing process and avoid pesticide use altogether.
  7. Be mindful of imported produce:  Imported fruits and vegetables may have pesticide regulations that are different from those grown domestically.  Consider choosing locally grown organic produce whenever possible to reduce the risk of pesticide exposure.

Following these strategies can empower you to make informed decisions that not only minimize pesticide exposure but also contribute to a healthier diet.  However, it’s worth noting that while the awareness around pesticide use in agriculture is increasing, navigating the landscape of food choices isn’t getting any easier.

Editor’s note: Try this fruit and veggie wash to remove unwanted pesticide residues from your produce.

Sources for this article include:

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