Strawberries, Kale top 'dirty dozen' list of tainted produce

Kale joins the ranks of the annual ‘Dirty Dozen’ pesticide list	 	 	 			ANGELA WEISS  AFP  Getty Images

Kale joins the ranks of the annual ‘Dirty Dozen’ pesticide list ANGELA WEISS AFP Getty Images

While this news may raise concerns, it doesn't mean you should rule kale out of your healthy diet.

The nonprofit-nonpartisan environmental organization has annually ranked pesticide contamination in popular fruits and vegetables since 2004. Less than 1 percent of samples showed any detectable pesticides.

The EWG also released a Clean Fifteen list that includes produce found to have the lowest levels of pesticide residue. Dacthal is not used as a pesticide in the UK. In total, nearly 70 percent of conventionally grown produce in the United States are contaminated with pesticide residues.

Bottom line: A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is essential for health, so don't give up on them just because of the "dirty dozen" list.

The Dirty Dozen list does have its detractors, including the Alliance for Food and Farming, which released a statement claiming that avoiding the "dirty" produce on the EWG's list doesn't lead to decreased consumer risk since pesticide levels on most conventional produce are low. "That's largely because residues are so low, if present at all", she said. Only California requires pesticides used on crops grown in the state be registered, so that the effects of human exposure can be noted.

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Additionally, the agency says that evidence has shown that the brain development of children can be affected from high exposure to pesticide. This list varies, as does pesticide use in agriculture.

If strawberries, spinach or kale is on your shopping list, you might want to opt for the organic versions the next time you are at the grocery store.

Even as kale's popularity surged, it hasn't been included in the USDA's regular produce tests since 2009, when it ranked eighth on EWG's list, according to the group, which found pesticide residues on almost 70 percent of conventionally grown produce in the U.S. That study determined that if half of all Americans increased their consumption of a fruit and vegetable by a single serving each day, 20,000 cancer cases could be prevented each year.

In the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) most recent round of tests, more than 92% of conventionally grown kale samples had at least two or more types of pesticide residue. The most common pesticide detected was Dacthal, also known as DCPA, and has been identified as a potential cancer-causing agent. Avocados topped that list, followed by sweet corn, pineapples, and frozen sweet peas. In contrast to the Dirty Dozen, there was no detection of pesticide residues in 70% of these foods.

The report found that less than one percent of avocado and sweet corn samples had any detectable pesticides.

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Are pesticides really that harmful for you?

The recommendations from the Environmental Working Group are to buy and eat organic produce, especially fruits and vegetables found on the Dirty Dozen list. Recognizing this isn't always an option for people, the report acknowledges that eating any fresh fruit or vegetable - organic or not - is beneficial to one's health.

Despite this, the report explained that the risk shouldn't put people off eating these foods.

"A list like the Dirty Dozen makes it seems like we have something to be concerned about, when we don't necessarily have anything to be concerned about at all", MacGregor said to Global News.

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