Pests love fruit as much as we do, so you can’t grow fruit without pesticides. A lot of those pesticides stay on the fruit.
While the benefits of eating fruit clearly outweigh the risks of pesticides, some pesticides have been linked to serious health risks, including cancer, reproductive problems, and development delays.
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Children and babies — especially babies in the womb — are especially susceptible to these risks. Just as some pests are more susceptible to certain pesticides, so are some people.
Every year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) looks at USDA testing data to identify those fruits with largest number of pesticide residues.This year we found that 98 percent of strawberries, peaches, nectarines, and apples tested positive for at least one pesticide residue.
In the case of strawberries, 40 percent of the samples USDA tested had residues of 10 or more different pesticides and one had the residues of 17 different pesticides. The USDA tests were conducted after the fruits were washed and peeled, just the way you would eat them.
What’s more, the pesticides used to grow strawberries pose some of the most serious health risks — not just to consumers but also to farm workers and the people who live near strawberry farms. Some are so dangerous they have been banned in other countries.
In most cases, the residues do not exceed the limits set by the government, but those limits don’t always reflect the best science, changes in what we eat, and the special susceptibility of children. Lots of pesticides have been presumed to be “safe” — that is, until the day government bans them.
If you want avoid pesticides, there are plenty of good options. Most samples of pineapples, papayas, mangoes, grapefruit, kiwis, cantaloupes, and watermelons had few if any pesticide residues — and these options are a lot less costly than strawberries.
If you do want to splurge on strawberries, it might make sense to pay a little more and look for the organic seal — which guarantees that toxic pesticides have not been used on your food. Plus, eating organic fruits and vegetables may also boost your consumption of antioxidants, according to some recent studies.
The bottom line is people should eat more fruit. Most of us are not getting two servings a day. And, if you want to reduce your exposure to pesticides, choose from clean options like papayas, kiwis, and mangoes or choose organic.