Consumer Reports | Finding produce without pesticides

As many of us try to eat more fruit and veggies, we could be putting ourselves at risk by also eating harmful pesticides.

We’re digging deep into the real dangers of these pesticides in our food and what we can do about them.

A healthy diet consists of eating plenty of fruits and vegetables – but some of the chemicals that are often used by produce farmers to help control bugs, fungi, and weeds raise concerns when it comes to your health.

“Every year, the Department of Agriculture tests a selection of domestic and imported produce for pesticide residue. So, our experts analyzed seven years of this data,” said Catherine Roberts, with Consumer Reports.

For years, evidence has been building, linking pesticide exposure to increased risks of cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

The good news: there’s little to worry about in close to two-thirds of the 59 conventionally-grown fruits and veggies reviewed.

The bad? 20 percent posed a high risk from pesticides.

“Produce that proved most problematic: conventionally grown versions of blueberries, bell peppers, potatoes, green beans, kale and mustard greens, and watermelons,” Roberts said.

The Alliance for Food and Farming, a farming industry organization, pointed out to CR that more than 99 percent of foods tested by the Department of Agriculture contained pesticide residues below the Environmental Protection Agency’s legal limits.

While that is true, the Food Quality Protection Act or FQPA requires the EPA to apply extra protection when science doesn’t conclusively show that a pesticide is safe for infants and children. But, this safety margin has rarely been used.

“There just hasn’t been enough research done on some of these chemicals and the negative health effects they can pose. So our experts took a precautionary approach and applied the FQPA safety factor to certain categories of pesticides, even if the EPA doesn’t – to make sure we don’t underestimate risks.”

So, can you enjoy these fruits and vegetables and avoid harmful pesticides?

“You don’t need to totally eliminate higher-risk foods from your diet. Remember that the risk, even from the most concerning produce, comes from exposure during vulnerable times such as pregnancy or early childhood or from repeated and years-long exposure. Fortunately, our research shows that for the most problematic produce, opting for organic is a great way to reduce the risk.”

Nearly all of the organic produce CR looked at had low or very low pesticide risk.

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