Strawberries, Kale top 'dirty dozen' list of tainted produce

How safe is the food in your kitchen

Compiled alongside the Dirty Dozen list was the group's annual Clean Fifteen, which ranks the fruits and vegetables that have the least pesticide residue.

More than 90 percent of strawberries, apples, cherries, spinach, nectarines, and kale samples reportedly tested positive for residues of two or more pesticides. Unlike other pesticide-focused studies, this one does not search for a specific kind, such as the weed killer used in Roundup.

Avocados carries the least pesticides, followed by sweet corn, pineapples, frozen sweet peas, onions, papayas, eggplants, asparagus, kiwis, cabbages, cauliflower, cantaloupes, broccoli, mushrooms and honey dew melons. No national registry of the pesticides used on fruit and vegetable crops exist, so it's not even clear which pesticides growers are spraying. Dacthal (DCPA)-a pesticide that has been classified by the Environmental Protection Agency since 1995 as a possible human carcinogen-was the most frequently detected pesticide on almost 60% of kale samples.

If strawberries, spinach or kale is on your shopping list, you might want to opt for the organic versions the next time you are at the grocery store.

"The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure", EWG Research Analyst Carla Burns said in a release. It urges consumers to buy and eat organic produce, especially fruits and vegetables found on the "Dirty Dozen" list.

Numerous pesticides detected by EWG have always been banned in the European Union and have been the subject of concern at the EPA-but the US has failed to take the chemicals off the market. (You know which group we're talking about - you're probably getting that icky feeling all over just thinking about them.) That list keeps getting perpetuated despite the fact that peer-reviewed studies show it's recommendations are not scientifically supportable, while other studies show it may negatively impact consumers since it discourages purchasing of any produce - organic or conventional. Less than one percent of conventionally-grown samples of avocados and corn were found to contain pesticides.

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Multiple pesticide residues are extremely rare on Clean Fifteen vegetables.

"The federal government's role in protecting our health, farm workers and the environment from harmful pesticides is in urgent need of reform", the EWG said.

Additionally, around 30 percent of the samples had 10 or most pesticides on them.

As in the past, this year EWG has expanded the Dirty Dozen list to highlight hot peppers, which do not meet our traditional ranking criteria but were found to be contaminated with insecticides toxic to the human nervous system. It is based on results of more than 40,900 samples of produce tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration.

The guide, released every year since 2004, ranks the pesticide contamination of 47 popular fruits and vegetables.

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