Superfoods like blueberries, spinach and kale are laced with dangerous chemicals

Blueberries, spinach and kale — each usually recognized as among the healthiest foods one can eat — have been named among produce with the most pesticides.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), based in Washington DC, named its ‘dirty dozen’ produce foods this week, a dubious honor reserved only for fruits and vegetables in America laced with the most chemicals.

Alongside the antioxidant-rich blueberries and leafy greens are other snacktime favorites such as strawberries, grapes, apples, nectarines, pears and cherries.

Peppers and green beans — which often find themselves into health-conscious recipes — were named on the ignominious list too.

The EWG studied 46 produce aisle staples for its study, and found that 75 percent of freshly grown produce in America contain residue of harmful pesticides. Human ingestion can damage the nervous system or even cause cancer.

More than 90 percent of samples of strawberries, apples, cherries, spinach, nectarines and grapes had at least two pesticides on them, the EWG found

More than 90 percent of samples of strawberries, apples, cherries, spinach, nectarines and grapes had at least two pesticides on them, the EWG found

Over 250 different pesticides were discovered on the fruits and vegetables, some of which have been barred in the US or Europe because of the effect they have on human health.

For example, the neurotoxic organophosphate insecticide acephate, which was banned from use on green beans in 2011 showed up on six percent of green bean samples.

The insecticide is listed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a possible human carcinogen.

Both blueberries and green beans harbor worrying levels of organophosphate insecticides.

These can damage the human nervous system and is particularly poisonous for children’s developing brains.

Almost 10 percent of the blueberry samples contained the pesticide phosmet, and 9 percent had traces of malathion.

Both are organophosphates and malathion was categorized as probably carcinogenic to humans by the International Agency for Research on Cancer in 2015.

More than 90 percent of samples of strawberries, apples, cherries, spinach, nectarines and grapes had at least two pesticides on them.

Over 50 pesticides were detected on every kind of crop on the dirty dozen list, apart from cherries.

Kale, collard and mustard greens and hot and bell peppers had the most pesticides of any crop — 103 and 101.

The EWG compiled their ‘dirty dozen’ and ‘clean 15’ lists — fruits and vegetables with the least detectable pesticides — using data from 46,569 samples.

On the Clean 15 list, less than two percent of the avocado and sweet corn samples had detectable levels of detectable pesticides.

The data came from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which peels or scrubs its produce samples before testing, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which only gets rid of the dirt prior to testing.

Even after these steps, 251 pesticides were lingering on the produce.

The clean 15 list contains fruits and vegetables tested which have very low or zero traces of pesticides.

EWG toxicologist Alexis Temkin said: ‘Despite the abundance of science linking exposure to pesticides with serious health issues, a potentially toxic cocktail of concerning chemicals continues to taint many of the non-organic fruits and vegetables eaten by consumers.’

The EWG emphasized that people should continue to eat fruit and vegetables, even if they are not organic.

Mr Temkin said: ‘Everyone – adults and kids – should eat more fruits and vegetables, whether organic or not. A produce-rich diet provides many health benefits.’

Fruits and vegetables with the most and least pesticides


1. Strawberries

2. Spinach

3. Kale, collard & mustard greens

4. Peaches

5. Pears

6. Nectarines

7. Apples

8. Grapes

9. Bell & hot peppers

10. Cherries

11. Blueberries

12. Green beans


1. Avocados

2. Sweet corn

3. Pineapple

4. Onions

5. Papaya

6. Sweet peas (frozen)

7. Asparagus

8. Honeydew melon

9. Kiwi

10. Cabbage

11. Mushrooms

12. Mangoes

13. Sweet potatoes

14. Watermelon

15. Carrots

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