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Pesticides In California – Which Fruits and Vegetables have the most?

According to the 2018 California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) survey, 95 percent of all the 3666 produce samples collected had no detectable pesticide residues or were below levels allowed by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency. The produce was only tested for about 400 pesticides. A small percentage of Beet Tops, Bok Choy, and Kale had illegal traces of unapproved pesticides but none of the residues were at a level that would pose a health risk to consumers.


On the other hand, certain non-profit and non-partisan organizations such as The Environmental Working Group (EWG) paint a different story. They claim that nearly 70 percent of the fresh produce sold in the U.S. contains residues of potentially harmful chemical pesticides. EWG researchers analyzed data from the US Department of Agriculture to identify the fruits and vegetables with the most and least amounts of pesticide residues to help Californian consumers make more informed decisions in regards to food safety. Every year they release their Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce where they rank the 12 “dirtiest” produce. Here are some of the fruits and vegetables to be on the lookout for:


Strawberries – This sweet and delicious fruit happens to lead in this list as the prime host for toxic insecticides. Based on a recent report, over 90 percent of strawberry samples contained residues for two or more pesticides.

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Spinach – 76 percent of spinach samples contained Permethrin; a neurotoxic pesticide that is prohibited in Europe. Not only that, but Spinach also appears to be particularly “good” at absorbing DDT residue left in the soil, a pesticide banned in the 1970s. Although banned, DDT remains in some farm soils. 

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Kale – 60 percent of the samples tested showed that kale contained Dacthal, or DCPA, which is known to be carcinogenic.

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Apples –The Pink Lady variety, in particular, are brimming with antioxidants, but apparently also pesticides. A whopping 90 percent-plus of the samples were found to have pesticide residues for two or more chemicals.

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Grapes – Grapes have consistently made their way on our list unfortunately due to the number of pesticide residues found every time testing is performed. Raisins and wines are known to be highly susceptible to pesticide residue and should always be tested as well.

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Peaches – We can’t deny the health benefits peaches have for our bodies, aiding with digestion and providing vitamin C. However, those that are grown conventionally do contain levels of unwanted pesticides.

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Cherries – Cherries are rich in melatonin and can help battle against insomnia. However, from the samples tested, over 90 percent showed high levels of pesticide residues.

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Other fruits and veggies found to contain high amounts of pesticide residues include pears, tomatoes, nectarines, celery, potatoes, and hot peppers. While you shouldn’t stay away from them completely, it would be in your best interest to opt for organic variations. Additionally, it’s important for farmers and food producers to periodically screen their products to ensure pesticides are below allowable limits.

Adamson Analytical’s pesticides multi-method analyzes over 700+ chemicals and can be used for the analysis of various products.


Peter Darbey 


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