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Apples top pesticide 'dirty dozen' list

19th June 2012

Apples with no organic certification are the most heavily contaminated produce when it comes to pesticide residues, an environmental group has said.

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The Environmental Working Group said apples were once more at the top of its annual "Dirty Dozen" list of agricultural produce with unacceptable pesticide residues.

This year's tests included tests for pesticide residues on baby food for the first time, and the group said it found residues in prepared baby food consisting of green beans and pears, while sweet potatoes seemed relatively free of residue.

According to Johanna Congleton, senior scientist at EWG, consumers should only eat organic versions of the most contaminated fruits and vegetables on the dirty dozen list.

But she said that eating commercially grown produce was still better than eating no fruit or vegetables at all.

However, food toxicologist Carl K. Winter who directs the FoodSafe program at the University of California, Davis, said some of EWG's rankings were "arbitrary."

Winter said consumers should eat lots of fruits and vegetables, whether organic or conventional.

After apples on the dirty dozen list were celery, capsicum peppers, peaches, strawberries and nectarines.

These were closely followed by grapes, spinach, lettuce and cucumbers, with the last two slots occupied by blueberries and potatoes.

EWG also issued an additional warning about green beans and leafy greens like kale, which they said were commonly contaminated with highly toxic organophosphate insecticides.

Such insecticides are highly toxic to the nervous system and have been removed from agricultural use by many producers. But because they aren't banned outright, they can still be found on crops.

Pesticide exposure has been linked to hormonal disruption, cancer, brain toxicity, and skin, eye, and lung irritation.

Onions were found to be the lowest in pesticides, closely followed by sweetcorn, pineapples and avocado.

Cabbage, peas, asparagus and mango also fared well in tests, after which were listed aubergine, kiwi fruit, cantaloupe and watermelon, sweet potatoes and mushrooms.

In prepared baby food, green beans tested positive for five different pesticides, while 92% of pear samples showed at least one pesticide residue.

The EWG generally relies on testing data supplied by the US department of agriculture and the food and drug administration.

Produce is normally tested after it has been washed and peeled.

Winter said further information was needed about the amount of pesticide found, how much is consumed, and how toxic it is to humans.

He said he receives no food or chemical industry funding, and that he believes that the average amount of exposure from foodstuffs was "negligible."


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