20 percent of common produce carry unhealthy levels of pesticides new report says

Of the 59 common produce items evaluated, popular produce like strawberries, green beans and potatoes posed the highest risks.


A new report conducted by Consumer Reports found pesticide residue on more than 20 percent of the food analyzed to be at “risky levels.” Of the 59 common produce items evaluated, popular produce like strawberries, green beans and potatoes posed the highest risks.

The nonprofit organization used seven years’ worth of data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Data Program (PDP) to compile what is being referred to as the “most comprehensive study on pesticides in food.”

“When you grab a handful of green beans at the supermarket or pick out a watermelon, your chance of getting one with risky pesticide levels may be relatively low,” James Rogers, food safety expert at Consumer Reports, said. “But if you do, you could get a much higher dose than you should, and if you eat the food often, the chances increase.”

Consumer Reports analyzed 30,000 samples from fresh to frozen to some organic produce and all were at risk from pesticides, “although risk level varied by fresh or frozen produce, conventional or organic, and whether the produce was grown in the U.S. or imported,” EcoWatch reported. For example, U.S.-grown conventional celery and collard greens detected moderate risks of pesticides, while imported varieties came with very high risks and organic celery and collard greens posed very low risks.

“When possible, replace a food rated high or very high with a lower-risk one, or choose organic. Keep in mind that the risk comes from repeated servings over time,” Catherine Roberts, associate editor of health at Consumer Reports, said. “If you usually choose produce with the best ratings, you can reduce the chance of future harm.”

According to the report, most of the popular produce consumed had low pesticide risks, especially when choosing organic varieties, therefore, lower-pesticide-risk foods are safely consumable at three or more servings per day.

The authors of the report concluded that “many of the higher risks come from only a small group of pesticides, which could help inform government policy on pesticide regulations in the future,” EcoWatch reported.

“The way the EPA assesses pesticide risk doesn’t reflect cutting-edge science and can’t account for all the ways the chemicals might affect people’s health, especially given that people are often exposed to multiple pesticides at a time,” Michael Hansen, PhD, CR senior scientist, said. “So we take a precautionary approach to make sure we don’t underestimate risks.”


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