Biting into a juicy apple or crunching on a fresh stalk of celery is what healthy eating is all about. Along with their delicious taste, fruits and vegetables also carry megadoses of vitamins and minerals, making them the perfect food for healthy eating.
However, it has become well known in recent years that some fruits and vegetables carry much more than just vitamins and flavorful taste. Many are covered in pesticides and carry dozens of chemicals.
The FDA began testing fruits and vegetables for traces of pesticides, insecticides, and carcinogens several years ago. On the back of these tests, a list of twelve fruits and vegetables that rank the highest among chemical residue has been compiled. These are termed the “Dirty Dozen.” Of those, the following are ten dirtiest and most potentially damaging fresh – but not-so-natural – foods you’re eating right now.
Imported cherries are some of the cleanest fruits that you can eat. U.S. grown cherries, are not. They are among the twelve dirtiest foods due to their high levels of pesticides, insecticides, and carcinogens. Seventy-one percent of all U.S. grown cherries contain residues as opposed to only 35% of imported cherries.
The main reason for heavy insecticide use on cherries is to keep the western cherry fruit fly from laying eggs in the fruit. If just one maggot from the western cherry fruit fly is found in a cherry shipment, the entire shipment is required to be thrown out.
Conventional potatoes are a staple of many family meals. They are more affordable than other fruits and vegetables, they are filling and chalked full of great vitamins and minerals. But, along with their great benefits, potatoes also carry a number of unwanted chemicals. According to the USDA’s Pesticide Data Program, there are 35 different pesticides that are found on conventional potatoes. Chlorpropham, an herbicide has been found on 76% of all conventional potatoes. Chlorpropham, which stops weed growth, has been shown by the Extension Toxicology Network to slow growth and cause congestion of the spleen and death in laboratory animals.
Possible reasons for the high chemicals content in conventional potatoes is the continuous chemical treatment as well as their growth method. Potatoes are a root vegetable, which means they absorb pesticides above the ground and also through the soil. Potatoes are treated with fungicides during growing season, herbicides before harvesting and sprayed with chemicals after being dug up to prevent them from sprouting.
A 2008 study by the US Department of Agriculture, found more than 50 pesticide compounds on domestic and imported peaches. Even scarier, six of the pesticide compounds found on the peaches were not approved for use in the United States. Five other compounds found exceeded the limits of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Two very unnerving chemicals founds on peaches are fludioxonil and iprodione. Fludioxonil disrupts the liver and kidneys while iprodione is a possible carcinogen that targets the nervous system of insects and humans.
Celery is a difficult vegetable to keep free of pests due to the tight structure and fragile structure of its stalks. In order to keep pests like caterpillars, moths and beetles off celery, several different insecticides are used. Spinosad is the most common insecticide found on celery stalks, even after the vegetable has been power washed by the FDA.
For many years blueberries were not heavily tested for pesticides and chemicals because their consumption rate was lower than their summer counterpart strawberries. But when their popularity began to rise, the FDA began testing blueberries in higher quantities. After higher testing levels, blueberries immediately took a place on the list of the dirtiest foods.
Blueberries are a favorite of bag worms and blueberry maggots, which means the fruit is constantly sprayed to detour the insects. Blueberries are also very fragile and have only a small window to be shipped and sold.
According to a recent report from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Americans eat 84 pounds of chicken per person a year. To keep up with that demand, over 8 billion chickens are killed in the United States each year. And large manufacturing plants of chicken such as Tyson and Perdue can slaughter as many as 30,000 chickens in 1 hour! With all the chicken running through slaughtering tables, you can imagine the amount of cross-contamination that could occur from say, the feces left from the disembowelment of the chicken and the remaining edible parts of chicken.
To counter act the germs, bacteria, and viral bugs that occur naturally without chicken by-products, large manufacturing plants douse the chicken meat in chemicals. What chemicals do the manufacturers deem acceptable to be put on chicken meat? Chlorine and peracetic acid. These are the same two chemicals that have been linked to lung cancer. They in fact are so dangerous that a worker at a chicken plant died after coughing up blood and his lungs and kidneys failed. If the mention of chlorine didn’t scare you, how about arsenic. Johns Hopkins University found levels of inorganic arsenic in chicken two to three times higher than the FDA suggests is safe.
And if the chemicals and contamination didn’t make you feel a little queasy about that chicken sandwich you just ate, then how about the recent Center for Science in the Public Interest 2013 declaration that chicken is the most unsafe meat in terms of bacterial content.
4. Bell Peppers
The U.S. supply of bell peppers (sweet peppers) comes primarily from the U.S. and Mexico. A comforting fact when you think of the freshness of the peppers that are not subject to a long shipping time. Not so comforting though when you consider that bell peppers grown in the U.S. have the highest amount of pesticides on them than any other country.
The high use of pesticides come from the peppers’ appeal to insects. The shape of the fruit allows for pesticide deposits to easily accumulate around the stem. Of the chemicals that are most often found on peppers, the insecticide imidacloprid is most prominent. Over 81% of bell peppers tested have had the insecticide residue on them as well as other types of pesticides used to keep the peppers fresh longer. While the insecticide imidacloprid has not been tested on humans, animals that ingest it can experience liver damage, blood clotting issues, increased cholesterol levels and fertility issues.
In 2012, non-organic American apples were banned by Europe due to the fruit’s large dose of diphenylamine (DPA). The European Union has banned the use of DPA on any of its foods and set a limit of 0.1 part per million of DPA. Sounds reasonable considering when you go to buy apples you aren’t really searching for a healthy snack with toxic chemicals. But not for US officials. The average concentration of DPA in US apples is four times as much as the European Union finds acceptable (nearly .042 parts per million).
Why is such a chemical even present in American apples? DPA works to keep apples from browning during cold storage, thus allowing manufacturers more time to ship the sweet fruit before it begins to brown. It this chemical and several others that are continuously found on apples and the reason for the sweet fruit’s place in the number one position of the dirtiest fruit on the Envioronmental Working Group’s 2013 and 2015 list.
Not only are apples considered to have dangerous levels of the chemical, so are the many products made from apples such as apple juice and applesauce. Even baby food derived from apples has come under scrutiny, leading more tests to be done for dangerous chemicals.
Despite the incredible health benefits of spinach such as a good source of iron and fiber, the leafy green is well known for its high occurrence of pesticides. In particular, samples of spinach were found to have the highest levels of cancer causing residue of any other produce. On several spinach samples permethrin, a human carcinogen and endocrine disrupter, was found at very high levels as well.
DDT, a highly poisonous chemical that was banned over 20 years ago, is still found in relatively high levels among spinach samples. The chemical is known mainly for its link to breast cancer as well as its interference with the human endocrine system.
The bright red berry is the most favored of the berries throughout the majority of the United States, which means it is constantly in demand. California, the supplier of nearly 90% of the nation’s strawberries, has worked hard to keep their strawberry crops up and running, but not without adding a few extra toxic chemicals.
A 2013 report from the Pesticide Action Network Analysis found that one sample of strawberries contained 54 different pesticide residues! Of the fifty-four types of residue, nine were known or probable carcinogens, 24 were hormone disruptors, 11 were neurotoxins and 12 were developmental or reproductive toxins.
The strawberry’s soft outer texture makes it easy for chemicals to adhere to it and easier for the consumer to ingest since the outer portion is not removed like on pineapples or bananas.
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