In order to avoid high pesticide residue found in common fruits and vegetables, it’s important to know which produce is most important to eliminate from your diet. Unless, of course, you want to go completely organic! However, it’s not always possible for everyone to eat organic food all the time for various reasons, so the next best thing to do is to avoid the dirtiest of the veggie and fruit culprits.
In 2013, The USDA found that 2/3 of 3,015 produce samples tested were positive for pesticide residue and 165 different pesticides were found on thousands of fruit and vegetables samples. The USDA reported that pesticides remained even after washing and sometimes even after peeling.
Every year the Environmental Working Group analyzes data from the Department of Agriculture as to various produce pesticide residue content.
EWG estimates that people can reduce their exposure to pesticide chemicals by as much as 80% when they choose organic instead of traditional fruits and vegetables.
Top 16 foods that harbor the worst pesticide residue
Apples: 99% of all apples tested positive for pesticides and the FDA found 36 different chemicals ½ of which are neurotoxins that may cause brain damage.
Strawberries: The highest pesticide dosed crops in the US, with 300 pounds of pesticides applied to each acre and 36 individual pesticides found on each fruit
Raspberries: Typically dusted with 39 chemicals and 58% of tested fruits registered positive for contamination.
Cherries: Have as many as 25 pesticides per fruit
Grapes: One grape has 15 pesticides and 35 different pesticides are typically used in vineyards that grow them
Celery: Grown using at least 29 different chemicals that cannot be washed, as celery does not have a peel. In 2011, the FDA analysis of celery found that 94% of samples had pesticide residue levels above designated safe levels.
Peaches: 45 different pesticides are regularly applied to peach crops. 98% of peaches were found by the EWG to have at least 1 pesticide residue and the skin of the peach does not offer any protection.
Spinach And Greens: In 2011, the FDA found spinach to be most frequently contaminated with the most potent pesticides used on food and 85% of spinach tested was contaminated at dangerous levels with one or more of the 36 pesticides used at farms
Sweet Bell Peppers: Made the EWG’s Dirty Dozen list as one of the highest pesticide ridden foods. In 2011, the FDA found that 68% of bell peppers tested had high levels of chemical pesticide residue. Pepper’s thin skin offers little protection and the waxy layer consists of harmful substances
Tomatoes: The FDA confirms that more than 30 pesticides are used in growing tomatoes and the skin does not stop the pesticide chemicals from infiltrating to the inside. The EWG found single samples of cherry tomatoes to have 13 different pesticides.
Snap peas (imported): The EWG found each snap pea to have 13 different pesticides
Potatoes: One average potato was found by the EWG to have more pesticides by weight than any other type of produce
Hot Peppers: USDA tested 739 samples of hot peppers in 2010 and 2011 and found them to contain residues from three highly toxic insecticides, oxamyl, acephate, and chlorpyrifos, at high enough levels to cause concern.
Blueberries (domestic): Found to have organophosphate insecticides residues that are considered highly toxic to the human nervous system.
Kale And Collard Greens: Found by the EWG to have organophosphate insecticides residues that are considered highly toxic to the human nervous system.
Of course, there are other fruits and vegetables that could be added to the list, such as nectarines and cucumbers. It’s impossible to be completely thorough with such a widespread issue as pesticide treatment of edible crops.
However, following this list can help you can make wiser food shopping choices, which is especially important for pregnant women and children. This data comes from independent tests conducted by the USDA and the FDA that tested 100,000 plus food samples as well as the Environmental Working Group.