Pesticide Watch: New ‘Dirty Dozen’ List Released

See what tops the list of contaminated produce—and find out whether your baby food is safe.
Look out, Snow White. These days, apples contain a different kind of poison. (Photo: Lifesize/Getty Images)
Jun 18, 2012· 1 MIN READ
Clare Leschin-Hoar's stories on seafood and food politics have appeared in Scientific American, Eating Well and elsewhere.

That crisp, all-American apple may not be as wholesome as you’d suspect. In fact, the Environmental Working Group once again tucked apples at the top of its “Dirty Dozen” list released today. Celery ranked second, followed closely by sweet bell peppers, peaches, strawberries, nectarines and grapes. But there’s good news for those of you who dig onions, sweet corn, pineapples and avocados—all made the list of least contaminated produce.

To more closely mirror the way food is actually eaten by consumers, produce samples were washed or peeled before testing, which was conducted by the USDA and FDA between 2000 and 2010.

Those of you on the baby-food circuit may want to pay close attention to this year’s report. For the first time since the inception of the pesticide testing program, the USDA took a closer look at pesticide residues on baby food, including green beans, pears and sweet potatoes.

“Pears prepared as baby food showed significant and widespread contamination,” says the EWG report, while sweet potatoes had virtually no detectable pesticide residues.

Can’t afford organic produce all the time? Don’t fret. The EWG points out that eating conventionally grown produce is far better than not eating fruits and vegetables at all, but hopes consumers will use the guide to reduce their pesticide exposure.

But expect a nasty public fight. To deflect today’s EWG report, the Alliance for Food and Farming is releasing its own report, Scared Fat, that it says will “illustrate how negative and misleading information about the safety of fruits and vegetables is impacting consumption and undermining public health campaigns targeted towards improving diets and reducing obesity rates in the U.S.”

“That’s an erroneous claim by the chemical agri-biz folks,” EWG’s Alex Formuzis tells TakePart. “Report after report, research after research shows it’s taste, availability, price and the fact that the junk food industry spends billions in marketing and advertising campaigns.”

“The dramatic growth of the organic industry, which saw roughly $30 billion in sales last year, is due to several reasons, one of which is that a growing number of consumers don’t want to eat toxic pesticides with their food,” he says.

Do you buy organic across the board, or purchase organic produce only occasionally?