Strawberries are one the most popular fruits eaten in the United States. It is also one of the top three foods on the “Dirty Dozen” list. The “Dirty Dozen” are foods consistently found with the most pesticide chemical residue. Strawberries are easily susceptible to insect and fungal damage and are heavily sprayed to maintain their beautiful appearance and shelf life. Unfortunately, the average consumer is not aware of the health risks that come with eating one of their favorite summertime berries.According to the USDA’s Pesticide Data Program (PDP), over 55% of conventionally grown strawberries contain residue of the known carcinogen Captan. In addition to Captan, over 30% of conventionally grown strawberries contain residue of Myclobutinil (a known developmental and reproductive toxin), and Pyrimethanil (a suspected hormone disruptor and probable carcinogen). Over fifty different kinds of chemical residues can be found on conventionally grown fresh strawberries. Frozen strawberries also contained the above chemical residues at the same percentages as fresh strawberries, but close to 30% also had the highly toxic residue of the chemical Carbaryl (a known carcinogen, suspected hormone disruptor, developmental and reproductive toxin, neurotoxin, and bee toxin).
Yes, some residue can be washed off but unfortunately many of the pesticides absorb into the skin and flesh of the fruit making it rather difficult to remove. The use of new classes of pesticides referred to as “systemic”, poses a new challenge. These pesticides are taken up by the roots and absorbed into the tissues of the plant; they work from the inside-out to resist pests and cannot be washed off.
Each year researchers find new and disturbing links between pesticide exposure and health related problems. Children, who are most susceptible to the effects of pesticides due to their size and stage of development, are even more at risk. The effects of even the smallest traces of pesticide residue can have damaging effects on children’s health and behavior. In fact studies are now finding links between pesticide exposure and ADHD rates in children!
By choosing organically grown berries, you can take comfort in the fact that you are eating “the whole berry and nothing but the whole berry”, more or less.
(For a detailed list of all pesticide residues found on strawberries and other foods, check out the Pesticide Action Networks’ helpful online search tool What's on my food? The information is based on USDA data and cross-referenced with EPA toxicology reports).
Shapely, Dan. 2011. The New Dirty Dozen: The Top 12 Foods To Eat Organic. https://www.thedailygreen.com/healthy-eating/eat-safe/Dirty-Dozen-Foods (accessed July, 2012).
Pesticide Action Network. Pesticide Residue Database: What’s On My Food? https://www.whatsonmyfood.org (accessed July 2012).
Pesticide Action Network North America. 2012. Pesticides On Food. https://www.panna.org/issues/food-agriculture/pesticides-on-food (accessed July 2012).
Bouchard, M.F. et al. 2010. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Urinary Metabolites of Organophosphate Pesticides. Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2010/05/17/peds.2009-3058