Report: 75% of conventionally grown produce has pesticide residue

Public News Services

Marylanders shopping for fresh produce may want to consider a new report that finds chemical residues in much of the crop. In its 2024 “Shoppers Guide to Pesticides in Produce,” the nonprofit Environmental Working Group found residue of potentially harmful pesticides on 75% of all conventionally grown produce tested.

The group relied on data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration, which tested more than 47,000 samples of 46 different fruits and vegetables.

Alexa Friedman, senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group, said pesticides have been linked to a number of health problems.

“Things like cardio metabolic disorders, different types of diabetes, as well as some cancers,” Friedman outlined. “If you are exposed to multiple pesticides over the course of a lifetime, they might lead to a greater risk in any of these health outcomes.”

Many of the fruits and vegetables were washed and peeled prior to testing. Nonorganic strawberries were found to be the most contaminated item. The state of Maryland has more than 12,000 farms but as of 2022, only 62 farms in the state were certified organic.

The Shoppers Guide features a Dirty Dozen list of the most contaminated fruits and vegetables. It includes spinach, kale, grapes and peaches. There’s also a Clean Fifteen list of conventionally grown produce found to be low in pesticide contamination, including avocados, papaya, mangos and carrots.

Friedman emphasized they encourage people to buy organic when possible.

“We always recommend continuing to consume fruits and vegetables, and up your fruit and vegetable intake,” Friedman noted. “If you are interested in purchasing organic versions of the produce that’s on the Dirty Dozen, there are also some more budget-friendly options in the frozen aisles.”

In addition to pesticides, the report found high concentrations of fungicides, which are used to avoid such diseases as powdery mildew and are also applied to harvested produce to prevent mold. The report said fungicides are less studied than other pesticides but emerging evidence suggests some may disrupt hormone systems in the body. While the quantities of pesticides detected are within allowed amounts, Friedman stressed people should still be cautious.

“Even if the amount of pesticides are within legal limits on these produce, it doesn’t mean it’s safe for everyone, particularly susceptible populations like children,” Friedman cautioned.

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