- Raisins are the first product to be contaminated with pesticides, and 99% of inorganic raisins have positive results on at least two chemicals, according to the Environmental Working Group 2020 Consumer Guide to Pesticide Production. This is the first year that products tested by the group are not fresh.
- In the fresh produce category, strawberries, spinach and kale ranked in the top three on the Dirty Dozen list, exposed to most pesticides. The report found that 90% of the samples showed positive results for two or more pesticide residues. The full list is in order: Strawberry, Spinach, Kale, Nectarine, Apple, Grape, Peach, Cherry, Pear, Tomato, Celery and Potato.
- The purest products are avocado, sweet corn and pineapple. According to the EWG’s analysis of the USDA, 70% of the samples produced in the 15 cleanest spots were free of pesticide residues.
This year’s “Dirty Dozen” list is similar to the 2019 list, in different order – strawberry and spinach slots for 2020 and hot peppers were not included. Similarly, the “Clean Fifteen” rankings were almost the same. The guide reviewed 47 fruits and vegetables using more than 43,000 copies provided by the USDA and the FDA. Data were measured based on the number of pesticides per plant, the percentage of samples showing pesticides and the total amount of pesticides.
EWG reports that 70% of the pesticide trace product in the United States and the same handful consistently outperform the group’s list, asking how important is this ranking?
This annual list, compiled by the EWG since 2004, attracts a significant amount of publicity and criticism. Many consumers are familiar with this list, but depending on their power, they are likely to react differently to the list. Those seeking a clean diet or reducing their intake of chemicals may actively seek EWG rankings, as they are based on USDA and FDA data. However, the average consumer may also find that the same data is a frightening tactic, either ignoring it or abandoning supplies altogether – a criticism of industry groups.
The lack of movement in the rankings of the list suggests that neither consumers nor farmers find suitable pesticides for human health or are willing to face the financial consequences of removing them from the crop. Industry groups have insisted on this argument, saying pesticide residues in fresh produce are well below safety levels set by the Environment Agency, according to the USDA’s 2015 pesticide data program.
One group that pesticides do not pose a significant risk to the consumer is the California-based Alliance for Food and Farming, commodity groups, large farm groups and individual producers. In a press release, the group said the list was able to “cite fears of safety” and “raise concerns about the safety of traditionally grown fruit and vegetables”.
The Food and Agriculture Association has cited washing of products as a solution, citing FDA guidance that rinsing fruits and vegetables can reduce and often eliminate pesticide residues. For its part, the EWG report noted that pesticide residues still appeared after cleaning the batteries.
Linking the importance of pesticides to food, recent studies have shown that switching from a regular diet to a healthy organic diet can significantly reduce levels of synthetic pesticides in the human body in less than a week. Pesticides have been shown to affect fertility, birth defects, allergies and BMI.
The EWG recommended that consumers switch to organic consumption to improve health. However, this list, which has had similar rankings for years, is unlikely to reach new consumers or has already been influenced by those affected by the report.
Although pesticides are no longer attracting consumers as they used to be, chemicals are an issue that has proven to be important to many people. Consumers have consistently sought to clean labels and use predictable, recognizable ingredients. Perhaps if the EWG crosses the number of products used in production and the number of pesticides in the final result, it may be more successful in attracting American attention.