Blueberries, Green Beans Join Environmental Group’s ‘Dirty’ List

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March 15, 2023 -- Three-quarters of non-organic produce sold in the United States comes with potentially poisonous chemicals, the Environmental Working Group says in its latest ranking of the “best and worst” fruits and vegetables for pesticide exposure.

The group released its “2023 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™,” with blueberries and green beans joining the “Dirty Dozen” of the 12 non-organic, or conventionally grown, fruits and vegetables with the most pesticides.

Some of the pesticides are banned in the United States or Europe because of potential danger.

“Despite the abundance of science linking exposure to pesticides with serious health issues, a potentially toxic cocktail of concerning chemicals continues to taint many of the non-organic fruits and vegetables eaten by consumers,” said Alexis Temkin, PhD, an EWG toxicologist, in a press release.

The group says its findings, based on tests by the FDA and Agriculture Department, highlight a need for more regulations and oversight of pesticides use in growing food crops. Information was compiled from more than 46,000 samples of 46 kinds of fruits and vegetables – and covered 251 pesticides.

EWG says people should buy organically grown items from the Dirty Dozen: strawberries; spinach; kale, collard and mustard greens; peaches; pears; nectarines; apples; grapes, bell and hot peppers; cherries; blueberries; and green beans.

It also compiled a “Clean 15” list of the non-organically grown fruits and vegetables with the least amount of pesticides. They are: avocados; sweet corn; pineapple; onions; papaya; sweet peas (frozen); asparagus; honeydew melon; kiwi; cabbage; mushrooms; mangoes; sweet potatoes; watermelon; and carrots.

“Pesticides are toxic by design, created expressly to kill living organisms – insects, plants and fungi considered ‘pests,’” EWG says. “But many pesticides pose health dangers to people, too, including cancer, hormone disruption, and brain and nervous system toxicity. These hazards have been confirmed by independent scientists, physicians, and U.S. and international government agencies.

“Most pesticide residues found by the USDA and FDA fall below government limits and are legal. But legal limits don’t always indicate what’s safe for human consumption.”