5 ON YOUR SIDE: Produce without pesticides investigation

5 ON YOUR SIDE: Produce without pesticides investigation

5 ON YOUR SIDE: Produce without pesticides investigation

As many of us try to eat more fruits and vegetables, are we potentially putting ourselves at risk by also consuming harmful pesticides? A new investigation from Consumer Resorts digs 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, CR experts analyzed seven years of this data.

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

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

The bad is 20% 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.

The Alliance for Food and Farming, a farming industry organization, pointed out to CR that more than 99% 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 (FQPA) requires the EPA to apply extra protection when science doesn’t conclusively show that a pesticide is safe for infants and children. However, 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 CR experts took a precautionary approach and applied the FQPA safety factor to certain categories of pesticides, even if the EPA doesn’t — to ensure 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. Organic produce is often more expensive than conventional. Some tips to save money: Buy in bulk, consider frozen varieties, which may be cheaper than fresh and always watch for sales to stock up. You can find CR’s full ratings at CR.org/pesticides2024, which includes tips to help you shop and eat healthier.

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