Consumer Reports Warns of Pesticides on Grocery Produce

It found worrisome levels in 20% of US produce
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 18, 2024 5:40 PM CDT
Consumer Reports Warns of Pesticides on Grocery Produce
A woman browses produce for sale at a grocery store, Friday, Jan. 19, 2024, in New York.   (AP Photo/Peter K. Afriyie, File)

Roughly 20% of the fruits and vegetables in your local grocery store may pose a "significant" health risk because of pesticides, according to a Consumer Reports analysis. Its report is based on USDA routine pesticide testing of nearly 30,000 samples of fresh, frozen, organic, and canned produce collected from supermarkets over seven years. Consumer Reports found pesticide residue posed a significant risk in a dozen of the 59 common fruits and vegetables tested, including non-organic blueberries, strawberries, bell peppers, and potatoes. Nearly all organic produce was deemed safe. However, imported organic and non-organic green beans were flagged as very high risk, "raising questions about how these organic crops were contaminated with high-risk pesticides that are not approved for organic farming," per the Guardian.

Consumer Reports sometimes deemed a food to be high risk if only a small percentage of samples were contaminated. For example, non-organic domestic green beans are considered high risk though just 4% of samples tested positive for acephate or methamidophos. "Some of the most problematic foods ... had relatively few residues but worrisome levels of some high-risk pesticides," writes Consumer Report's Catherine Roberts, noting one green bean sample contained levels methamidophos, a pesticide banned in the US more than a decade ago, at more than 100 times the level the nonprofit considers safe. In other cases, moderately dangerous pesticides were found consistently, including on 90% of potatoes. CNN has more on the pesticides and their effects.

Less than 1% of foods tested by the USDA contained pesticide residues above the Environmental Protection Agency's legal limits. But Consumer Reports senior scientist Michael Hansen argues the EPA limits are years old, inconsistent with the science, and "don't take into account situations where there are multiple pesticide residues on a single sample," per the Guardian. The approach of the consumer group is meant "to make sure we don't underestimate risks," Hansen adds. The group says everyone should limit consumption of high-risk produce but children and pregnant women should be especially careful to consume less than a serving a day of high-risk foods, and less than half a serving a day of very high-risk foods. Click and scroll for a breakdown. (More pesticides stories.)

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