Strawberries again top 2018's 'Dirty Dozen' fruits and veggies

Strawberries are the dirtiest fruit

More than 98 percent of samples of strawberries, peaches, potatoes, nectarines, cherries and apples tested positive for residue of at least one pesticide.

Of the 39,000 USDA tests of 47 vegetables, one-third of all conventional strawberry samples had at least 10 pesticides and one sample had 22, according to EWG, a non-profit that works to "empower people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment".

The nonprofit, nonpartisan environmental organization has ranked the pesticide contamination of fruits and veggies every year since 2004 and releases them in their annual "Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce".

The neurotoxic insecticide chlorpyrifos, which can harm children's brains and nervous systems, is applied to apples, bell peppers, peaches, nectarines and other produce.

Strawberries first topped the list in 2016, surpassing apples, which held the position as the most pesticide-ridden produce for five years in a row.

This year's list almost mirrors the one from last year, suggesting that little has changed in how these crops are grown.

Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst at EWG, said the point of the annual guide is to equip consumers with the knowledge and information they need to make the best purchases for their families - especially if they are trying to avoid pesticide residues in their foods. "Pesticides can cause harm to infants, babies and young children at even low levels like those found on some foods".

For the 2018 Dirty Dozen list, EWG singled out produce with the highest loads of pesticide residues. The study led to enactment of the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act, which set safety standards for pesticides on foods. And more than 80% of pineapples, papayas, asparagus, onions and cabbages tested negative for pesticide residues.

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.

"All adults and children should eat more fruits and vegetables, whether they are organic or conventionally grown", the EWG noted on its site.

A small amount of sweet corn, papaya and summer squash sold in the United States is produced from GMO seedstock. Pineapple, onion, asparagus and eggplant all landed a spot on the "Clean Fifteen" list, which recognizes conventional foods that are low in pesticide residues.

Organic produce does tend to be less contaminated but can be much more expensive, so if you're debating whether to buy non-organic produce or no produce at all, buy the non-organic produce and wash it well.

Through its healthy eating reminder, MyPlate, the USDA recommends that half your plate be filled with fruits and vegetables.

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