2020 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™
99 Percent of Non-Organic Raisins Tainted With at Least Two Chemicals
By EWG Science Team (https://www.ewg.org/)
Nearly 70 percent of the fresh produce sold in the U.S. contains residues of potentially harmful chemical pesticides, according to EWG’s analysis of the latest test data from the federal Department of Agriculture. But the dirtiest produce commodity, according to the USDA’s Pesticide Data Program, is not a fresh fruit or vegetable but a dried one – raisins.
Traditionally, EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™ has included fresh fruits and vegetables only. But because the USDA tested raisins last year for the first time since 2007, we decided to see how they would fare on the Dirty Dozen™, our annual ranking of the fruits and vegetables with the most pesticides.
Almost every sample of non-organic raisins tested – 99 percent – had residues of at least two pesticides. On the 2020 Dirty Dozen, raisins would rank worst of all fruits tested, including strawberries, nectarines, apples and cherries, all of which had residues of two or more pesticides on at least 90 percent of samples.
As with last year’s Shopper’s Guide, kale ranks third on the 2020 Dirty Dozen list. Even as kale’s popularity as a health food rich in vitamins and antioxidants has soared in recent years, the level and type of pesticide residues on kale has expanded significantly.
In USDA’s most recent tests, the pesticide most frequently detected on kale was DCPA, sold under the brand name Dacthal. The Environmental Protection Agency classifies DCPA as a possible human carcinogen, and in 2009 the European Union banned it.
Whether organic or conventionally grown, fruits and vegetables are critical components of a healthy diet. However, many crops contain potentially harmful pesticides, even after washing, peeling or scrubbing, which the USDA does before testing each item. Since pesticide contamination varies by crop, it is important to understand which items are most or least contaminated.
Also important to note is that the USDA does not test for all pesticides used in crop production. Notably, it does not analyze glyphosate, or Roundup, the most heavily used pesticide in the U.S., but high levels can be found in several grains and beans, such as oats and chickpeas, due to its increasing use as a pre-harvest drying agent.
EWG'S DIRTY DOZEN FOR 2020
Of the 47 items included in our analysis, these Dirty Dozen foods were contaminated with more pesticides than other crops, according to our analysis of USDA data.1 (The rankings are based not only on the percentage of samples with pesticides but also on the number and amount of pesticides on all samples and on individual samples. See Methodology.) Key findings:
- More than 90 percent of samples of strawberries, apples, cherries, spinach, nectarines, and kale tested positive for residues of two or more pesticides.
- Multiple samples of kale showed 18 different pesticides.
- On average, kale and spinach samples had 1.1 to 1.8 times as much pesticide residue by weight than any other crop tested.
EWG'S CLEAN FIFTEEN FOR 2020
- Sweet corn
- Sweet peas (frozen)
- Honeydew melon
These 15 items had the lowest amounts of pesticide residues, according to EWG’s analysis of the most recent USDA data.1 Key findings:
- Avocados and sweet corn were the cleanest. Fewer than 2 percent of samples showed any detectable pesticides
- With the exception of cabbage, all other products on the Clean Fifteen tested positive for four or fewer pesticides.
- 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 7 percent of Clean Fifteen fruit and vegetable samples had two or more pesticides.