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Plane spraying pesticide Getty Images

Here's Which Produce Has the Most Pesticides

Feb 25, 2015
TIME Health
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Apples tops the list of produce with the most pesticides, according to a new report, followed by peaches and nectarines.

Overall, nearly two-thirds of produce tested contained pesticides, but the prevalence varied greatly between types, according to the report from the Environmental Working Group (EWG). More than 95% of the apples, peaches and nectarines tested contained pesticides.

"We see consistent differences between foods," said EWG senior analyst Sonya Lunder. "This is an important piece of information for people who want to eat zero pesticides, people who are concerned about eating pesticides who maybe live in an area where they don’t get organic food or can't afford it."

A number of factors determine which produce farmers spray with pesticides. Farmers tend to use pesticides for fruit with sensitive skin like peaches and nectarines, she said. On the other hand, the skin or peel on produce like avocados, pineapples and bananas largely prevents pesticides from affecting consumers who eat them.

Avocados, sweet corn and pineapples topped the list of produce with fewest pesticides.

The report looked at a number of factors in United States Department of Agriculture data to develop the rankings including the percentage of a type of produce that tested positive for pesticides, the weight of the pesticides and the average number of pesticides. Consuming produce with multiple pesticides may have "synergistic effects" on the human body, said Lunder.

The report is not meant to discourage consumers from eating fruits and vegetables, Lunder said. In fact, the EWG's database of 80,000 food items finds that produce rates among the healthiest items in the supermarket.

"We know everyone needs to eat fruits and vegetables and we would never say this is a reason to choose something else instead," she said. "This is important tool for understanding and making informed choices about the food you purchase."

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