Apples With Pesticides One of America’s Most Popular Fruits (After the Banana) Is Also One of the Most Contaminated

Apples with Pesticides, Credit: Tom Gill, FlickrCC98%. That’s the percentage of the over 700 apple samples tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that contained pesticide residues. The number was documented in the Environmental Working Group’s 2011 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, which ranks fruits and vegetables by their level of chemical contamination. But this same percentage is also being used by United Fresh Produce United Fresh Produce, a trade association of conventional produce growers. They claim it represents the percent of fruits and vegetables that were found by the USDA to have no detectable pesticide residues. “According to a USDA Pesticide Data Program report in 2008, 98% of fresh fruits and vegetables tested had no detectable residues,” said Ray Gilmer, the association’s vice president. “For the remaining 2%, the vast majority of the detections were well below established tolerances…” The Environmental Working Group EWG stands by their report.

To ensure their data accurately reflected a typical consumer’s pesticide intake from conventional produce, the USDA and FDA thoroughly washed and peeled fruit and vegetable samples before they were tested. They then calculated the percent of samples that had detectable pesticides, including the number of individual pesticides and total amount.

The Shopper’s Guide lists fruits and vegetables in order of these percentages, and the 12 with the highest pesticide contamination make up a “Dirty Dozen” list. Apples, America’s most popular fruit after bananas, topped the “Dirty Dozen” list this year. Then came celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, nectarines (imported), grapes (imported), bell peppers, potatoes, blueberries (domestic), lettuce and kale/collard greens.

The EWG also released their 2011 “Clean 15,“ a list of produce with the lowest

pesticide levels. Topping the “Clean 15” this year are onions, followed by sweet corn, pineapples, avocado, asparagus, sweet peas, mangoes, eggplant, cantaloupe (domestic), kiwi, cabbage, watermelon, sweet potatoes, grapefruit and mushrooms.

According to EWG calculations, if someone chooses five servings of fruits and vegetables a day from the “Clean 15” rather than the “Dirty Dozen,” she can lower the volume of pesticides she consumes daily by 92%.