Strawberries, spinach and kale top list of produce with pesticide contamination

Posted at 5:35 AM, Mar 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-17 05:35:21-04

Nonprofit Environmental Working Group released its annual shopper's guide to pesticides in produce on Tuesday with strawberries, spinach and kale topping the "dirty dozen" list.

EWG says nearly 70% of the non-organic produce sold in the U.S. contains residues of potentially harmful pesticides.

EWG's 2021 Dirty Dozen:

According to EWG, the Dirty Dozen foods were contaminated with more pesticides than other crops based on analysis of USDA data. EWG analyzed 46 items.

The group's site says the rankings are based on the percentage of samples with pesticides as well as the number and amount of pesticides on all samples and on individual samples.

  • More than 90 percent of samples of strawberries, apples, cherries, spinach, nectarines, and leafy greens tested positive for residues of two or more pesticides.
  • A single sample of kale, collard and mustard greens had up to 20 different pesticides.
  • On average, spinach samples had 1.8 times as much pesticide residue by weight as any other crop tested.
  • Hot peppers and bell peppers had the most pesticides detected, 115 pesticides in total and 21 more pesticides than the crops with the second highest amount – kale, collard and mustard greens.

EWG's 2021 Clean Fifteen:

  • Avocados
  • Sweet corn
  • Pineapple
  • Onions
  • Papaya
  • Sweet peas (frozen)
  • Eggplant
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Kiwi
  • Cauliflower
  • Mushrooms
  • Honeydew melon
  • Cantaloupes
  • Avocados and sweet corn were the cleanest. Fewer than 2 percent of samples showed any detectable pesticides.
  • The first seven Clean Fifteen crops tested positive for three or fewer pesticides on a single sample.
  • Almost 70 percent of Clean Fifteen fruit and vegetable samples had no pesticide residues.
  • Multiple pesticide residues are extremely rare on Clean Fifteen vegetables. Only 8 percent of Clean Fifteen fruit and vegetable samples had two or more pesticides.

According to EWG, the rankings of 46 popular fruits and vegetables are based on an analysis of more than 46,075 samples taken by the USDA and FDA. EWG says the USDA processes each food item in the same way people tend to do at home before testing.

For example, items are rinsed under cold water and drained or peeled.

Click here for more information and to see the EWG's full list.