Kale, a surprising entry, in 'dirty dozen' pesticide list

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"If this report from the Environmental Working Group has the effect of stoking fear in people around certain eating fruit and vegetables, it's having a very dire outcome", he said.

The samples EWG analyzed had been tested by the Department of Agriculture (USDA) itself.

Those are the 12 types of produce with the highest levels of pesticide residues.

That's bad news for kale-lovers, as the watchdog found more than 92 per cent of the leafy green has traces of at least two pesticides, even after being properly washed and prepared. One sample contained up to 18 different pesticides.

This year's report also says that 70-percent of produce in the US pesticides, even after washing.

"We were surprised kale had so many pesticides on it, but the test results were unequivocal", Alexis Temkin, an EWG toxicologist, said in a statement.

"The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure", EWG Research Analyst Carla Burns said in a release.

Pesticides help protect crops against insects, weeds and infections, but research has shown a correlation between chemicals and health complications.

The USDA tested kale samples for the first time in nearly a decade, finding 18 different pesticides on several samples, according to the study.

Avocados, sweet corn and pineapples top the EWG's "Clean Fifteen" list.

However, strawberries were the worst offenders, with nearly all of the samples - 99 percent - found to have residue of at least one pesticide. The pesticide has been prohibited for use on crops in the European Union since 2009.

Strawberries were named the most contaminated produce in EWG's "Dirty Dozen" list for 2019, followed by spinach, kale, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears tomatoes, celery and potatoes.

USDA's tests found a total of 225 different pesticides and pesticide breakdown products on popular fruits and vegetables Americans eat every day.

"We definitely acknowledge and support that everybody should be eating healthy fruits and vegetables as part of their diet regardless of if they're conventional or organic", Temkin told the Guardian. "Studies have shown that eating fruits and vegetables free of pesticides benefits health, and this is especially important for pregnant women and children".

Additionally, around 30 percent of the samples had 10 or most pesticides on them.

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

EWG said the calculations for its Shopper's Guide rely on analysis of more than 40,900 samples taken by the federal government in the last year or two, because not every food is tested every year.

Since 2004, the group - a nonprofit, nonpartisan environmental organization - has annually ranked pesticide contamination in popular fruits and vegetables for its Shopper's Guide, noting those with the highest and lowest concentration of pesticides after being washed or peeled.

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