Do You Really Need To Worry About Pesticide Residues On Fruits And Vegetables?

Steve Savage
8 min readMar 28
Delicious Fruit

(This article was originally published on Forbes 3/23/23 )

Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet providing vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, dietary fiber and other benefits. They can also be quite delicious. Nutrition experts agree that many Americans should eat more of these foods, but that can be challenging for those with a busy lifestyle. But another reason is consumers hesitate to buy produce items that they’ve been told are risky because of pesticide residues. The main way they get that idea is through something called the “Dirty Dozen List” which is published each year by the Environmental Working Group (EWG EWG ) — an organization which gets funding from several large organic food companies. The 2023 list is expected soon. It purports to advise consumers about which specific foods are most important to buy as Organic to avoid these pesticide residues. This fear-based message is completely misleading and irresponsible.

There are several reasons why this list has a negative effect on society. The first is it represents an egregious misinterpretation of an extensive and transparent public data set called the USDA Pesticide Data Program or PDP. The EWG claims that their list is based on the PDP data, but in fact what the data shows is these foods are safe and “clean” and should be enjoyed with confidence. That conclusion is clearly expressed in the USDA’s public summary and confirmed by the EPA and FDA.

The second issue is the messaging tends to discourage many people from consuming healthy amounts of fruits and vegetables. That is particularly true for those on limited incomes. We do not have a two-tiered food system that requires us to pay a price premium for safety, and the USDA makes it clear that it’s Organic certification is not about safety.

The third reason that the Dirty Dozen List is so corrosive it undermines public confidence in the EPA regulatory process for pesticides as if nothing has changed in the more than 50 years since that agency was established.

The fourth problem is the Dirty Dozen List denigrates the farmers who actually do a great job of producing these crops and protecting them from pest damage and food loss while still complying with…

Steve Savage

Semi-retired agricultural scientist, writer, consultant, blogger, speaker. San Diego county, California