Pesticides pose significant risk in 20 percent of fruits and vegetables, Consumer Reports finds

Green beans, potatoes, blueberries among most problematic in study

Fruits and vegetables provide good nutrition, but are you also getting an unhealthy serving of harmful pesticides?

Consumer Reports dug into seven years of data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which, every year, tests a selection of domestic and imported produce for pesticide residue.

They found little to worry about in nearly two-thirds of the 59 conventionally grown fruits and veggies reviewed.

However, they found that 20% posed a high pesticide risk.

“Produce that proved most problematic (was) conventionally grown versions of blueberries, bell peppers, potatoes, green beans, kale and mustard greens, and watermelons,” Consumer Reports’ Catherine Roberts said.

The Alliance for Food and Farming, a farming industry organization, pointed out that more than 99% of foods tested by the Department of Agriculture contained pesticide residues below the Environmental Protection Agency’s legal limits.

Consumer Reports suggests the USDA’s threshold may be too high.

The Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) requires the EPA to apply extra protection when science doesn’t conclusively show that a pesticide is safe for infants and children. However, this safety margin has rarely been used.

“There just hasn’t been enough research done on some of these chemicals and the negative health effects they can pose. So our experts took a precautionary approach and applied the FQPA safety factor to certain categories of pesticides, even if the EPA doesn’t — to ensure we don’t underestimate risks,” Roberts said.

So, can you enjoy these fruits and vegetables and avoid harmful pesticides?

“You don’t need to totally eliminate higher-risk foods from your diet.,” Roberts said. “Remember that the risk, even from the most concerning produce, comes from exposure during vulnerable times such as pregnancy or early childhood or from repeated and years-long exposure. Fortunately, our research shows that for the most problematic produce, opting for organic is a great way to reduce the risk,” Roberts said.

Nearly all of the organic produce CR looked at had low or very low pesticide risk.

Organic produce is often more expensive than conventional. Some tips to save money: Buy in bulk, consider frozen varieties, which may be cheaper than fresh, and always watch for sales to stock up.

You can find CR’s full ratings here, which includes tips to help you shop and eat healthier.

About the Author

Marilyn Moritz is an award-winning journalist dedicated to digging up information that can make people’s lives a little bit better. As KSAT’S 12 On Your Side Consumer reporter, she focuses on exposing scams and dangerous products and helping people save money.

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