On the plus side, however, EWG also released its "Clean Fifteen" shopper's guide, showcasing the least contaminated produce on the market. Each of those foods tested higher than other fruits, vegetables and produce.
The EWG's "Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce" lists the trademarked "Dirty Dozen" list of fruits and vegetables with the most pesticide residues, and the trademarked "Clean Fifteen" for which few, if any, residues were detected. "One-third of all conventional strawberry samples contained 10 or more pesticides".
The analysis, based on produce samples tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, found that strawberries and spinach contained the highest amounts of pesticide residues.
Not a single fruit sample from the "Clean Fifteen" tested positive for more than four pesticides.
The organization cautions that a small portion of sweet corn, papaya and summer squash sold in the USA is produced from genetically modified seeds. And, on average, spinach samples had 1.8 times as much pesticide residue by weight than any other crop.
Third on the list are pineapples followed by cabbage, onions, frozen sweet peas, papayas, asparagus, mangoes, eggplants, honeydews, kiwis, cantaloupes, cauliflower and broccoli.
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Veggies placed in the top two spots - avocados and sweet corn - both showed pesticides on less than 1% of tested samples, the new report indicated.
Tom Stenzel, president and CEO of the United Fresh Produce Association, says consumers should not rely on a shopping guide when deciding which fruits and vegetables to purchase. While vegetables and fruits are essential components of a healthy diet, research suggests that pesticides in produce may pose subtle health risks. Studies have linked pesticide-laden produce to everything from asthma and cancer to fertility problems and brain conditions.
Because organic farmers are more restricted on the types of pesticides they can use, organic foods are often lower in pesticides - especially synthetic varieties. Male participants who ate high-residue produce had poorer sperm quality. Or, if not organic, avoid eating a certain twelve fruits and vegetables all together.
More than 80% of pineapples, papayas, asparagus, onions and cabbages had no pesticide residues.
EWG also released its Clean Fifteen list which features fruits and vegetables that are "least likely to contain pesticide residues". This year the list includes, in descending order, strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, potatoes and sweet bell peppers. The Environmental Protection Agency was mandated by the federal Food Quality Protection Act of 1996 to enhance the regulation of pesticides and reduce the rate children are exposed to pesticides. But EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt reversed course after Dow Chemical, which manufactures the chemical, complained. Breakdown products are substances that form when pesticides mix with the environment.