Imported Fruits and Vegetables Shopping Guide
As the Spring Festival approaches, families will begin to reunite together. Currently, more and more families are choosing to buy imported fruits and vegetables in order to enhance their happiness and entertain their guests. Some examples are the California cherry, the Philippines pineapple, Valencia oranges, Argentine red shrimp, etc. An array of imported ingredients and large-scale choices of space make us dizzy. Does the high prices of imported fruits and vegetables equate to higher quality? How do you buy fruits and vegetables abroad? From the editor’s point of view of pesticide residues we introduce the “2018 Spring Festival Import Guide Selection of fruits and vegetables”.
Pesticides are unique among manufactured chemical products. Unlike other chemical products that are designed for a certain purpose and may have toxic properties as an unintended side effect, pesticides are intentionally toxic—toxic by design. They are made to interfere with biological functions in living organisms and are manufactured and released into our environment and food supply, not in spite of their toxicity but because of their toxicity. Fully understanding and documenting the full range of negative effects on nontargeted living organisms—including humans—requires long-term and in-depth study.
Because of the inherent toxicity of pesticides, medical and public health experts have long raised concerns. For example, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) points out that there is “a growing body of literature that suggests that pesticides may induce chronic health complications in children, including neurodevelopmental or behavioral problems, birth defects, asthma, and cancer.”
The President’s Cancer Panel of the National Institutes of Health writes that exposure to pesticides has been linked to brain/central nervous system, breast, colon, lung, ovarian, pancreatic, kidney, testicular, and stomach cancers, as well as Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and soft tissue sarcoma. Approximately 40 different EPA-registered pesticides that are currently on the market are classified as known, probable, or possible human carcinogens. Although 40 known, probable, or possible human carcinogens may be a disconcerting number in and of itself, it occupies a small percentage of the approximately 900 registered active ingredients in use today.
Unfortunately, many of these chemicals have not been proved noncarcinogenic but rather fall into the cancer classifications of “not likely to be carcinogenic to humans” and “not classifiable” (because of a lack of sufficient information on which to base an assessment). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) acknowledges that the associations between pesticide exposure and certain cancer and noncancer chronic health effects are well documented in the peer-reviewed literature and sets tolerance levels for residues to try to protect the public and environment from adverse effects.
EWG, a non-profit research group, found 70% of the thousands of analyzed samples contained at least some pesticides. Altogether, the group found 178 different types of pesticides.
Strawberries topped the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list of produce with the most pesticides. It’s the second straight year strawberries have led the list, which has been published since 2004 and is based on U.S. Department of Agriculture tests of 48 types of produce.
EWG’s Dirty Dozen List：
11. Sweet bell peppers
EWG’s The Clean List：
1. Sweet corn
6. Frozen sweet peas
11. Honeydew melon
The Impacts of Pesticide Use
Pesticides are designed to be toxic to living organisms.
☛ Rural residents. 2,4-D and other chlorophenoxy herbicides are listed as 2B carcinogens,
“possibly carcinogenic to humans.”206 Studies show an association between cancer
mortality and living near farm fields treated with the herbicide 2,4-D.207
☛ Honeybees. Neonicotinoids are linked to honeybee colony collapse disorder.208
Nearly one-third of managed honeybee colonies were lost during the winter of 2012 to
☛ Monarch butterflies. Glyphosate kills the milkweed plant, the primary food of monarch butterflies. Monarch butterfly populations have declined drastically over the past decade.210
☛ Children. Organophosphate pesticide exposure has been linked to deficits in IQ,211 attention,212 and behavioral development in children.
☛ Rural residents. Atrazine is a suspected endocrine disruptor, which may affect
Reducing Exposure to Pesticides: What Consumers Can Do
It is important to remember that fruits and vegetables are a crucial part of a healthy diet. People who eat plenty of fruits and vegetables tend to be healthier and live longer, even when the produce they eat comes from conventional production systems. But there are many benefits to making choices that avoid pesticide residues and support farmers who are committed to reducing their dependence on pesticides.
To help consumers make such informed decisions, we created two guides. The first is our guide to residue risk, which is based on a comprehensive analysis of government data to generate a produce Dietary Risk Index (DRI). This index can help consumers minimize the risk from exposure to pesticide residues. The methodology for creating the index and our findings is explained in detail below. This index can help consumers minimize their risk from exposure to pesticide residues in and on the foods they eat.
The second is our guide to labels. Labels on foods can help consumers understand the way the food was produced, and better understand which pesticides were used even when there are low or no residues on the fruits and vegetables. For example, soil fumigants may not show up as residues on fruits and vegetables, but their use may have negative impacts on farmworkers, rural residents and wildlife.
Moreover, some pesticides that have low known risks to consumers (and therefore do not contribute significantly to DRI) may have unknown risks or known risks to the environment, wildlife and pollinators. Labels can vary widely in how meaningful they are, what the standards require, and how they are verified. Understanding labels is therefore critical for consumers who wish to support farmers following strict and verified standards that reduce the use of pesticides.
We used all available USDA PDP residue data to calculate the FS-DRI for each produce item-country- production method combination, including data from crop year 2013 that was released in December 2014. For all foods, we based our rankings on the “Most Recent Year” for which of PDP data are available.
How to Read and Understand Residue Guide
We categorized each produce-country-production type combination into one of five categories discussed above. The average FS-DRI score (referred from here on as DRI) for all organic produce item-country combinations fell into the “low” or “very low” category. As a result of this finding and because of the strict standards required to earn, and retain, organic certification, and well-documented and significant environmental benefits, we always recommend organic produce as the best choice.
Fortunately, the majority of residues found in conventional produce items also fell into the “low” or “very low” categories as well. Conventional items that fall into the very low or low categories are roughly equivalent to organic produce when comparing residue related risk. For consumers who are mainly worried about exposure to residues, these conventional products represent good options, especially when available at a markedly lower price. Still, we recommend organic as the best choice.
Relatively smaller proportions of produce items fall into the “very high,” “high,” and “medium” categories. Items in the “very high” category have a DRI score of greater than 1. From a single serving of such items, children would ingest pesticides associated with a DRI risk level of 1 or higher (our “level of concern” that takes into consideration EPA reference doses). Items in the “high” risk category have a DRI score between 0.2 and 1. For those items, children would reach a DRI of 1 with two to five servings. Five servings of fruits and vegetables is the typical amount recommended by the USDA. Items in the moderate risk category have a score between 0.2 and 0.1. Children would reach a DRI of 1 after five to 10 servings.
Even for produce items that fall into one of the three highest risk categories (“very high,” “high,” or “medium”), there is often a lower risk (“low” or “very low”) conventional produce option
Attachment is Residue Guide
When organic options are not available or affordable, consumers can take certain actions to lower their exposure to pesticide residues.
➜Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water. Make sure you wash for 30 seconds to 1 minute, and gently rub the produce to dislodge the residues.
➜Produce with firm edible skin can be scrubbed with a clean produce brush.252 Wash produce brushes regularly with hot soapy water or in a dishwasher and dry completely. And consider not peeling since nutrients are in the peel too.
➜Wash produce before removing inedible peels to prevent pesticide residue contamination on your hands and on the edible parts.
➜Remove the outer leaves of heads of lettuce or cabbages, because the outer leaves are likely to have higher levels of pesticide residues.
➜If you use citrus peel (such as for zesting), consider buying organic.
➜Wash organic produce as well. Organic regulations prohibit the use of synthetic pesticides, but synthetic pesticides used on neighboring conventional farms could contaminate organic crops. Washing eliminates more than just pesticide residues; it also removes dirt and potentially harmful microorganisms that might contaminate.
Not all imported fruits and vegetables are guaranteed to have good quality. From the table, we found many well-known American and Chilean fruit products to contain pesticide residues that cannot be ignored. Organic food should be our first choice because their pesticide residue control is very good. Consumers can choose, according to this table, the appropriate production of fruits and vegetables if there are no suitable low pesticide residues and organic produce available. Please allow us teach you some tips on how to thoroughly clean fruits. I hope the above article can help you properly identify healthy and safe imported fruits and vegetables.
Date: January 15, 2018
Images: Google Images
Coordinator: EnvGuide Team
1. Consumer report Greener Choice Pesticide Report
2. USA Today. Strawberries and these other foods have the most pesticides
3. EWG Consumer Product Guide
4. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and federal Food and Drug Administration website
5. Pesticide residue on fruits and vegetables, Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH)