The Environmental Working Group’s report, Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, analyzed annual pesticide residue tests conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The samples were washed or peeled before being tested to determine how much pesticide residue they contained — and that consumers might ingest if they eat the produce. The most recent tests, conducted in 2010, found that 68 percent of produce samples had detectable pesticide residues.
Among the findings:
- The most contaminated fruits, in alphabetical order, are apples, domestic blueberries, grapes, imported nectarines, peaches and strawberries.
- The most contaminated vegetables are bell peppers, celery, cucumbers, lettuce, potatoes and spinach.
- Every sample of imported nectarines tested positive for pesticides, followed by apples (98 percent) and imported plums (96 percent).
- The average imported nectarine had much higher total weight of pesticides than any other food crop.
- Grapes had 15 pesticides detected on a single sample. Blueberries and strawberries both had 13 different pesticides detected on a single sample
- As a category, grapes have more types of pesticides than any other produce, with 64 different pesticides.
- Some 96 percent of celery samples tested positive for pesticides, followed by potatoes (91 percent).
- A single bell pepper sample was contaminated with 15 different pesticides, followed by a single sample of celery with 13.
- Bell peppers had 88 different pesticide residues, followed by cucumbers (81) and lettuce (78).
The EWG recommends buying the following fruits and vegetables, which are lowest in pesticide use. The list goes from lowest to highest levels of pesticides:
- Sweet corn
- Sweet peas
- Cantaloupe (domestic)
- Sweet potatoes