Health

Apples worst for pesticides on produce list

Apples ranked as the worst offenders for pesticide levels in an environmental group's new list.

Apples ranked as the worst offenders for pesticide levels in an environmental group's new list.

The Environmental Working Group updated its Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce based on data collected from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration from 2000 to 2009. 
Apples took the top ranking, up three spots from last year to replace celery at the top of the "Dirty Dozen" list. (John Dunham/Messenger-Inquirer/AP)

Researchers ranked fruits and vegetables based on how many pesticides were found on each type of produce and at what levels.

Most samples were washed and peeled before the tests to reflect real life conditions of how they're eaten. For example, apples were washed in water and bananas were peeled.

Apples took the top ranking, up three spots from last year to replace celery at the top of the "Dirty Dozen" list. About 98 per cent of the more than 700 apple samples tested showing pesticides.

Several fruits and vegetables appeared for the first time on the Clean 15 list, including the herb cilantro, onions, cranberries and mushrooms.

"Though buying organic is always the best choice, we know that sometimes people do not have access to that produce or cannot afford it," said EWG President Ken Cook said in a release.

"Our guide helps consumers concerned about pesticides to make better choices among conventional produce, and lets them know which fruits and vegetables they may want to buy organic."

The group estimated that consumers who choose five servings of fruits and vegetables a day from its Clean 15 list rather than from the Dirty Dozen can lower the volume of pesticides they consume by 92 per cent.

The Dirty Dozen were:

  • Apples.
  • Celery.
  • Strawberries.
  • Peaches.
  • Spinach.
  • Nectarines (imported).
  • Grapes (imported).
  • Sweet bell pepper.
  • Potatoes.
  • Blueberries (domestic).
  • Lettuce.
  • Kale/collard greens.

The list does not rank any sort of health risk from the produce tested.

"The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure," the group said on its website.

Statistics Canada said there were 3,555 farms producing certified organic  produce in 2006, an increase of 60 per cent since 2001.

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