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

June 3, 2010 |  1:22 pm

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

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