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Celery tops the list of pesticide-contaminated produce [Updated]

Celery Move over, peaches. Celery now tops the list of produce most contaminated by pesticides, according to the 2010 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce released this week by the Environmental Working Group. Rounding out the "dirty dozen" of 49 fruits and vegetables tested are strawberries, apples, domestically grown blueberries, nectarines, sweet bell peppers, spinach, kale/collard greens, cherries, potatoes and imported grapes. Topping the "clean 15" are onions, avocados, frozen sweet corn, pineapples, mangos and sweet peas.

The sixth edition of the guide from the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit research group analyzed the 49 most-consumed fruits and vegetables in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Each item was either rinsed or peeled prior to being tested to more accurately reflect the chemical amounts likely to be consumed. The research was conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration between 2000 to 2008.

Various studies have connected pesticides to nervous system toxicity, cancer, hormone system disruption and skin, eye and lung irrigation, according to the Environmental Working Group. While the group says eating vegetables and fruits treated with pesticides is better than not eating vegetables and fruits, the guide points out that consumers can lower their pesticide consumption by almost 80% by avoiding conventionally grown varieties of the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables. The guide is offered as just that -- a guide to help consumers decrease their pesticide exposure while still getting the health benefits of produce.

[Updated June 4 at 1:15 p.m.: "Eat your fruits and vegetables. The health benefits outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure. That's the message we want to make sure people don't lose sight of," said Dave Kranz, spokesman for the California Farm Bureau Federation, a Sacramento-based nonprofit that represents California farmers and ranchers. "More than 98% of the produce tested has no detectable trace to begin with, and the small proportion of the produce that does have traces remains well within the levels established by governmental agencies."]

-- Susan Carpenter

Photo: David Karp

 
Comments () | Archives (9)

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Finally, we at the League for the Suppression of Celery have been vindicated. We have been talking about this concerns about pesticides on celery since January of 2009 and again with the New Zealand pesticide scare in July of 2009. Thank you EWG for publishing what the LSC has known all along!

Poor Frank. Where do we start.

Oh! How about here, with his first whopper.

Frank says: "...it is widely under-reported that 98.2% of the products tested by USDA showed no detectable levels of pesticide residues at all..."

Not even close. Here's how USDA generated that particular number. For every sample tested, USDA tests for about 200 pesticides. If they find an average of 5 pesticides on each sample of a theoretical kumquat, that's five pesticides that you would feed to your child, they say that 97.5 percent of the "tests" - meaning all 200 pesticides that were tested for - were negative, even if all the kumquat samples were positive for one or more pesticides.

We agree that this is a bit of an arcane number that is of not much use to anyone. But even if its hard to understand, it needs to be reported accurately.

If you want to get the actual numbers on the percentage of all samples (as opposed to tests) that had no detected pesticides, go to Appendix M of the most recent USDA Pesticide Data Program Annual Report. (The number is 29.7 percent, by the way.)

As to celery, you will see quite clearly in Appendix M that 95.5 percent of celery samples had one or more pesticides detected, with a high of 13 pesticides on one sample, and that's after it is washed and prepared for normal consumption.

As to our methodology, it is posted on EWG's foodnews.org site under - maybe this was confusing to Frank - "methodology" in the top nav.

And on the issue of risk assessments, the beauty of the Shoppers Guide is that we let the user decide. We treat all pesticides the same, whether they cause cancer in animals, brain damage, disrupt the endocrine system, or a host of other toxic effects. Then we simply tell the user which fruits and veggies are the most contaminated and which are the least, according to the USDA.

How cool is that?

Richard Wiles


Yawn. "The group says eating vegetables and fruits treated with pesticides is better than not eating vegetables and fruits." Duh. Let's stop the scare tactics and just eat.

This report is not based on science (see comment by Frank) and is more about how a consumer group scares people so they may make a profit. EWG is not concerned about keeping consumers healthy but keeping the dollars flowing to EWG. In an email soliciting funds, EWG writes:

"At EWG, our top priority is empowering consumers with the best possible information, like EWG's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides, to make healthy choices.

But we simply can't keep doing this research without your support, and we need you now more than ever.

We need to raise $45,000 before Monday, May 10 to keep us on track for our 2010 budget. I'm counting on you to help us get there.

Give $10 or more, and we'll send you an EWG's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides bag tag to clip on to your reusable shopping bag. That way, you'll always have trusted EWG research in the produce aisle."

Tele-evangelicals use the same tactics. Substitute "Shopper's Guide" with the word "Bible."

The EWG uses dubious science to make up their list and consumers should be aware that this is organization is more about fundraising than being a consumer advocate. Some observations:

• When referencing this list, it is widely under-reported that 98.2% of the products tested by USDA showed no detectable levels of pesticide residues at all (this is clearly stated in the UDSA summary report). For example, if you look at celery specifically, 96.8% of the samples had no detectable residues at all. On the extremely small percentage of fruits and vegetables that had detectable residues, those residues were well below EPA established legal limits. This is an extremely important point and consumers should be made aware of it.

• This list is misleading to consumers in that it is based only upon exposure data while remaining silent about available information on the assessment of toxicity of pesticides presented in the diet and, as such, does not provide a basis to assess risk.

• There are serious concerns that EWG has continually refused to share its methodology and/or algorithms for developing this list with the scientific community. Specifically the scoring EWG used to develop the list cannot be readily reproduced. EWG has also not submitted their study and/or list for peer review.

I find it really amazing that a civilized, rich, and technologically sophisticated country could poison it's citizens so blithly. It's a pretty good indication of the scale of irresponsible leadership that a corporate run country is held hostage to. I will add celery to the long list of toxic substances I longer eat. Thanks corporate America and thanks impotent and enfeebled Government.

Dear LA (and Other Friends Everywhere),

Such important work, such important info, so imperative that we shop and consume accordingly . . . buy organic, buy organic, buy organic -- and whenever possible (esp. when organic is not immed. avail.) , try to support local and small-format folks through farmer's markets and neighborhood "garden coops" and the like, inquiring directly about techniques employed and pharma's applied while encouraging -- and directly rewarding with purchases and praise for the vision and courage -- the most natural (read "less yield, more time, more expense" to most farmers), low-chem methods.

We must know the info, hold the vision and draw the line -- and ultimately, reward with our praise and purchase, letting our dollars and good-karma, feel-good smiles lead the way.

Farm on -- Shop on -- Eat on -- Live on . . . chem free and full of goodness! Warmest regards, CAM

Don't panic, buy organic. Too expensive you may say. Go to the farmer's market near you.

Sinful! This is supposed to be our wholesome food. What will we do?


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