A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is considered key to good health. They are low in calories but high in nutrients. Just what the doctor ordered. Or is it not that?
Due to the widespread use of pesticides, many fruits and vegetables on the market are full of harmful chemicals. The worst are strawberries, spinach, and kale.
Strawberries are loved by many children, and while it is true that spinach is the enemy of many children, kale is becoming a staple in salads in much of Europe and the United States. However, it turns out that all three are plagued by pesticides in the US, according to the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG).
In the 2019 edition of EWG's annual “Dirty Dozen” guide to the most contaminated food products. Strawberries, spinach, and kale finish first, second, and third in that order. Other popular favorites follow: nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, and pears. Tomatoes, celery and potatoes complete the list.
Worryingly, kale didn't make the list until last year, which means the widespread use of pesticides in agriculture continues unabated, posing a serious risk to health and the environment. In some recent tests conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), it was found that more than 92% of non-organic kale contains two or more pesticide residues. Some cabbages had residues from a staggering 18 different types of pesticides.
"We were surprised that Kale had so many pesticides, but the test results were unequivocal," said Alexis Temkin, PhD, toxicologist with EWG. "Fruits and vegetables are an important part of everyone's diet, and when it comes to conventionally produced products, like kale, the organic choice may be a better option."
In total, nearly 70% of non-organic produce in the US contains pesticide residues, says the EWG. "The primary route of exposure to pesticides for most Americans who do not live or work on or near farms is through their diet," said Carla Burns, research analyst at EWG. "Studies have shown that eating pesticide-free fruits and vegetables benefits health, and this is especially important for pregnant women and children."
Based on their tests, the USDA says that up to 225 different pesticides and pesticide breakdown products have been detected in popular fruits and vegetables in the US Often, not even washing or peeling the fruit removes all toxins. These findings are very puzzling because long-term exposure to even relatively low levels of pesticides can have adverse health effects, especially in children.
"Even low levels of pesticide exposure can be harmful to children," said Dr. Philip Landrigan, a renowned pediatrician and epidemiologist. "Whenever possible, parents and caregivers should take steps to reduce children's exposure to pesticides while continuing to feed them diets rich in healthy fruits and vegetables."
By Daniel T. Cross