Triple play: EWG posts 'Dirty Dozen' list of fresh produce items

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And once again, experts not involved in the report say they worry the list will discourage people from eating fruits and vegetables, especially people on budgets who view higher-priced organic produce as unaffordable. The alternative to consuming conventional produce is consuming organic produce, or no produce at all.

Avocados lead 2018's clean fruits and veggies list, followed by sweet corn, pineapples, cabbage, onions, frozen sweet peas, papayas, asparagus, mangoes, eggplant, honeydew melon, kiwi, cantaloupe, cauliflower and broccoli. Nearly all spinach samples (97 percent) contained pesticide residues, while 94 percent of nectarine samples contained at least two pesticides.

The Shopper's Guide ranks pesticide contamination on 47 popular fruits and vegetables based on an analysis of more than 38,800 samples taken by the USDA and the Food and Drug Administration.

Rinsing produce under tap water is an effective way to eliminate pesticide residues from produce, according to the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, a government-run scientific group. The USDA found an average of 7.8 different chemical substances per strawberry sample tested in 2015 and 2016, compared to 2.1 substances for all other produce.

The EWG named the same produce items in its "Dirty Dozen" list this year as it did last year, although they were in a slightly different order.

"These are foods that people can buy with confidence and ingest fewer pesticide residues", Lunder said about those on the Clean Fifteen. Not a single fruit from the Clean Fifteen tested positive for more than four pesticides and more than 80 percent of pineapples, papayas, asparagus, onions and cabbages had no pesticide residue.

Nectarines are No. 3 on the 12 most pesticide-packed fruits and veggies
Nectarines are No. 3 on the 12 most pesticide-packed fruits and veggies

"All adults and children should eat more fruits and vegetables, whether they are organic or conventionally grown", the EWG noted on its site.

Tom Stenzel, president and CEO of the United Fresh Produce Association, says consumers should not rely on a shopping guide when deciding which fruits and vegetables to purchase.

A nonprofit health organization has listed the top fruits and vegetables contaminated by pesticides.

Alliance for Food and Farming executive director Teresa Thorne told USA Today that that Dirty Dozen list may sway low-income consumers from buying produce, which could be "harming public health efforts to improve the diets of Americans".

Importantly, the studies' definitions of higher- and lower-pesticide foods mirror those used for EWG's Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists. "The right mix can help you be healthier now and in the future".

The organization cautions that a small portion of sweet corn, papaya and summer squash sold in the U.S. is produced from genetically modified seeds.

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