High Levels of Dangerous Pesticides in Food

Dirty Dozen: Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce EWG 2023

Low-level exposure to pyrethroid insecticides found in common pesticide brands like RAID and ORTHO results in neurodevelopmental damage to laboratory animals, reinforcing evidence of harm found in epidemiological studies on human exposure to these chemicals.

Beehive products (i.e., bee bread, propolis, beeswax and royal jelly) from beekeeping or apiculture are said to have nutraceutical (health and medicinal benefits) properties. However, a wide range of pesticide residues (i.e., tau-fluvalinate , coumaphos , chlorfenvinphos , chlorpyrifos and amitraz ), especially acaricides for killing ticks and mites in hives, may accumulate in beehive products up to concentrations that pose a potential health risk.


EWG’s 2020 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™


EWG’s Clean 15 Vegetables


Five Foods High in Pesticides Most Aren’t Aware of

(hot & sweet bell peppers, Oats, pinto bean and chickpea products, some herbs like cilantro, rice and wheat products)

Many Toxic Pesticides found in Rice and Wheat Products

In 2018, USDA collected and tested 758 wheat flour and 189 rice samples and found 19 and 37 different pesticides on these commodities, respectively, including the neurotoxic pesticide chlorpyrifos and the pyrethroid insecticide deltamethrin . Rice samples also contained tricyclazole and propiconazole , two fungicides not approved in the EU.   Washing and cooking   rice can reduce some pesticide residues. Glyphosate is also present in   wheat products , as testing by EWG and others has shown.

A   recent study   in France found that children who consumed greater amounts of pasta, rice or semolina and breakfast cereals and whole grain bread had higher levels of metabolites of pyrethroid pesticides in their urine, compared to those who consumed less of these foods.


Despite testing foods for more than 500 pesticides, the USDA tests do not include glyphosate, the most widely used pesticide in the U.S. Research by EWG and   other   advocacy groups has highlighted the pervasive contamination of our food supply with glyphosate , a chemical associated with an elevated risk of cancer.   EWG’s own testing   detected the toxic pesticide in more than 95 percent of the samples of oat-based products, including children’s cereals


Like oats, beans and legumes are frequently sprayed with glyphosate right before harvest. Glyphosate has been reported in   pinto beans   and in chickpea products such as   hummus . Testing by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency   detected glyphosate   in nearly half of bean, pea and lentil products tested in 2015 and 2016. To avoid glyphosate in these products, organic varieties are a good choice.


The Dirty Dozen PLUS™ list includes sweet bell peppers and hot peppers, both of which can carry residues of neurotoxic chemicals such as the organophosphate insecticides acephate and chlorpyrifos . EWG recommends that people who frequently eat these vegetables buy organic, especially if they’re feeding them to children. If you’re going to eat conventional peppers, because if you can’t find or afford organic, make sure to cook them , because pesticide levels   typically diminish when food is cooked .



S ome herbs used in cooking, such as cilantro, can contain surprisingly high pesticide levels . For example, based on this year’s USDA data, the pesticide profile on cilantro is similar to that on   spinach   and   kale , both of which are on the Dirty Dozen list. As with kale, the most frequently detected pesticide on cilantro is DCPA , often sold under the brand name Dacthal, which is classified as a possible human carcinogen by the EPA and not approved for use in the European Union. Other concerning pesticides detected on cilantro include chlorpyrifos and pyrethroid insecticides.


Raisins: No. 1 on the Dirty Dozen List

99 percent tested positive for at least two pesticides. On average, each sample was contaminated with more than 13 pesticides, and one sample had 26 pesticides. Raisins are one of the dirtiest produce commodities on the market – and even some organic raisins are contaminated.

USDA found on raisins:

·     Two neonicotinoids, the   bee-killing   pesticides that can also harm   brain development . Imidacloprid was detected on 84 percent of raisins, and acetamiprid on 13 percent.

·     Two pesticides associated with cancer and damage to the developing nervous system.   Bifenthrin   was found on 77 percent of raisin samples, and   tebuconazole   on 62 percent. Both chemicals are developmentally neurotoxic in animals and are classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as   possible human carcinogens . Tebuconazole is also linked to   endocrine disruption   and impaired reproductive development.

·     Chlorpyrifos , another   brain-damaging   pesticide, which has been banned in the European Union while the   U.S. refuses to follow suit , was detected on 5 percent of raisins.



The USDA’s strawberry tests found that:

·     Almost all samples – 99 percent – had detectable residues of at least one pesticide.

·     Some 30 percent had residues of 10 or more pesticides.

·     The dirtiest strawberry sample had residues of 23 different pesticides and breakdown products.

·     Strawberry samples contained residues of 81 different pesticides in various combinations.

·        The average U.S. consumer consumed about 1.25 pounds of raisins in 2017, the latest year for which the USDA   has information .  



Apples are generally near the top of EWG’s Dirty Dozen™ list because they contain an average of 4.4 pesticide residues, including some at high concentrations. One chemical found on apples has triggered an intense international debate, set the U.S. and Europe on radically different courses, and given Americans one more reason to buy organic apples.


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