A rational discussion of apples and pesticides

Pesticides are a bit of a dirty word in some circles, but do consumers actually have anything to fear from pesticide residues in their apples?

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) puts apples right at the top of their 2013 “Dirty Dozen List” as the most “contaminated” fruit. For the average consumer this can be scary, as it sure seems like a good idea to lower your pesticide intake, right? The truth is you’ve got absolutely nothing to worry about!

Consider this: the average adult could consume well over 500 apples a day, and those apples could have the highest pesticide residue recorded by the USDA and it would still have zero effect! You can do the calculations for yourself at www.safefruitsandveggies.com and learn how many of any fruit any consumer (man, woman, teen or child) can safely consume. The take-home message is that you’d have to eat far more produce than is humanly possible to experience the slightest negative health effect.Apple Cart

A consumer might be concerned to hear one piece of fruit has ten times the pesticides as another, though in truth, the “ten times” stat is meaningless because it’s still less than 1% the amount that would cause any effect. It all depends on the dose – virtually everything, even coffee and salt, are toxic at high levels! We’ve previously discussed how easy it is to use scare tactics when it comes to what we eat and drink. Hundreds of people happily signed a petition to ban water just because it was referred to by its scarier sounding technical name, dihydrogen monoxide.

Even if you’re still a bit leery of pesticides despite these facts, consider the much greater health risk of cutting out produce to avoid them. A 2012 study determined that if just half the U.S. population increased their fruit and veggie consumption by a single serving each day, around 20,000 cancer cases could be avoided each year! Consider the reverse effect of cutting out just one serving a day… Even the EWG themselves state eating conventionally-grown produce is better than not eating any at all, as greater consumption would reduce not just cancer, but heart disease, diabetes, obesity and many other conditions as well.

Thankfully, there’s lots of great, evidence-based resources about pesticides in produce now available for consumers (especially from Best Food Facts), and coverage of the “Dirty Dozen” list and myths about produce safety is on the decline.

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About Joel Brooks

Growing up in the Okanagan Valley, Joel had the opportunity to experience apple growing first hand, a background that helped lead him to his role as Product & Special Projects Manager. Joel feels privileged to work with such great people towards a goal that’s so easy to get behind – helping people to eat more apples!

Comments

  1. Ben Edge

    The Dirty Dozen list and its “ten times” stat is *worse* that meaningless. It is intentionally deceptive. They take the total number of pesticides found in all the samples they use from a crop and use that number as an amount. So if they find 10 different pesticides used across 10 samples of apples, even if only one pesticide per sample, they say 10 pesticides were used in apples. If only 1 pesticide was found on peppers, but it was found on every sample of peppers they checked, say 10 samples, they would say that 10 times the pesticides were used in apples versus peppers, even if only one pesticide was used on each apple sample and each pepper sample.

    The EWG gives no indication of the amount of pesticides found, even though that information is in the USDA database. In most cases, whether organic or conventional produce, the level of pesticide detected is below tolerance limits, well below what would cause any harm, as noted in your article.

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