Feeding America is the largest charity working to end hunger in the United States. We partner with food banks, food pantries, and local food programs to bring food to people facing hunger. We advocate for policies that create long-term solutions to hunger.
A critical part of a healthy diet includes a combination of fruits and vegetables, regardless of how they are grown. But anyone worried about consuming potentially harmful pesticides should know that many are found on many fruits and vegetables, even after they are washed, peeled or scrubbed, which the USDA does before testing.
Of the 46 items included in our analysis, these Dirty Dozen foods were contaminated with more pesticides than other crops, according to our analysis of USDA data.1 (The rankings are based not only on the percentage of samples with pesticides but also on the number and amount of pesticides on all samples and on individual samples. See Methodology.)
Organic standards prohibit the use of synthetic pesticides, among other things. Eating organically produced food reduces pesticide exposure and is linked to a variety of health benefits, according to multiple studies, especially findings from a large study in France.2,3
Clinical trials continue to show that people who switched from conventionally grown to organic foods saw a rapid and dramatic reduction in their urinary pesticide concentrations, a marker of pesticide exposure. 4
Additional studies have linked higher consumption of organic foods to lower urinary pesticide levels, improved fertility and birth outcomes, reduced incidence of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, lower BMI and reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes.2,3,5,6,7
The Harvard researchers also found that people who ate greater quantities of crops high in pesticides had higher levels of urinary pesticides and lower fertility.7,8 People who ate a pro-fertility diet, which included the low-pesticide crops, among other foods and nutrients, like whole grains and folic acid, were more likely to have a successful pregnancy.9
Genetically engineered crops, also known as genetically modified organisms or GMOs, are most commonly found in processed foods rather than in fresh produce. Corn syrup and corn oil, produced from predominantly GMO starchy field corn, are commonly found in processed foods. However, you may find genetically modified zucchini, yellow squash, sweet corn, papaya and apples in U.S. markets, though only papayas are predominantly GMO.
It falls chiefly to the EPA to decide which pesticides are approved for use in the U.S., including what conditions are placed on their approval and setting the pesticide residue levels on foods and crops. But primary enforcement authority for pesticide use on farms is left to states, and the responsibility for testing foods to determine dietary exposures to pesticides is divided between the USDA and the Food and Drug Administration. But neither the USDA nor the FDA regularly tests all crops and produce for pesticide residues, nor do the programs test for all pesticides commonly used in agriculture.
One particularly dangerous pesticide is chlorpyrifos, which scientists have definitively linked to brain damage in children and fetuses. EWG and other public health advocacy organizations have spent more than a decade urging the Environmental Protection Agency to prohibit chlorpyrifos from being applied to food crops.
Within each of these categories, we ranked the 46 fruits and vegetables and then normalized the ranks on a scale of 1 to 100, with 100 being the highest. For each food, we calculated a total score by summing the normalized rank from each metric. All categories are weighted equally, since they convey different but equally relevant information about pesticide levels on produce.
We reviewed the literature on neighborhood disparities in access to fast-food outlets and convenience stores. Low-income neighborhoods offered greater access to food sources that promote unhealthy eating. The distribution of fast-food outlets and convenience stores differed by the racial/ethnic characteristics of the neighborhood.
retail stores that sell a combination of gasoline, fast foods, soft drinks, dairy products, beer, cigarettes, publications, grocery items, snacks, and nonfood items and have a size less than 5000 square feet.27(p996)
A study of 448 block groups in New York found that African American block groups had fewer opportunities to obtain healthy foods and greater access to fast-food restaurants than did other ethnic block groups.28 Inequities in the availability of national and local fast-food restaurants within a single-minority community were reported in a study of 165 census block groups in a low-income neighborhood of East Harlem, New York, where predominantly Hispanic census blocks had a higher proportion of fast-food restaurants than did racially mixed census blocks.34 In a study of 216 census tracts in Mississippi, North Carolina, Maryland, and Minnesota, fast-food restaurants were twice as common in racially mixed neighborhoods as in predominantly African American neighborhoods.41
A study in New York City examined healthy and unhealthy food environments in ethnic neighborhoods to develop a food desert index. African American neighborhoods had more bodegas classified as less healthy because of their large stock of foods of low nutritional value than did Hispanic and White neighborhoods.28 In East Harlem, African American neighborhoods were less likely to have convenience stores than were racially mixed neighborhoods, and predominately Hispanic neighborhoods were more likely to have convenience stores.34
Policy initiatives such as calorie labeling in fast-food restaurants are intended to help consumers make informed menu choices.80 However, assessments of the effectiveness of these regulations have yielded inconsistent results. In New York City, a study comparing purchasing patterns before and after the regulation was implemented reported that fast-food consumers living in low-income neighborhoods were less likely to use the calorie information.81 Furthermore, the use of the calorie information by low-income customers was not associated with the purchase of meals with lower caloric content.81 Another New York City study found no clear reduction in mean energy content of lunchtime purchases for all menu items in the full sample of fast-food chains examined. However, the regulation appeared to exert a positive effect on energy intake in 3 of the sample's 13 fast-food chains.82 In King County, Washington, a study of a Mexican fast-food chain found no change in mean calories purchased after calorie labeling was implemented.83 A study in Pierce County, Washington, evaluating labeling in a small convenience sample of full-service restaurants showed that customers who used the calorie information reduced their orders by an average of 75 calories.84
Despite these inconsistent results, calorie-labeling initiatives may encourage fast-food outlets to improve their menu offerings and promote lower-calorie items. More studies are needed to assess the potential impact of repeated exposure to such regulations on long-term consumer purchasing patterns and their impact on environmental justice.
Conclusions about cause and effect could not be established because most of the studies in our review were cross sectional. Therefore, other environmental and genetic causes of obesity and poor dietary quality in these populations cannot be ruled out as confounders. Not all studies employed buffering techniques, which are the most accurate methods available for defining impact areas.87 This may explain the disparate results observed in some international studies that relied on secondary data to describe the food environment.
Description of the food environment involves the identification of specific types of outlets and their location; it has therefore been recommended that a field validation be conducted or that multiple data sources be used to increase the quality of the results.88 No studies conducted outside the United States followed these recommendations. Some studies were limited to large fast-food chains. Other fast-food sources, such as small corner stores (e.g., bodegas and Asian food markets) were not considered in many of the studies, which could have caused underestimation of convenience stores, which are overrepresented in low-income and minority neighborhoods.89
In some cases, the lack of standardized methodology hindered direct comparison of results. For example, in 2 studies of the food environments in Hispanic and African American neighborhoods in New York City, use of buffering techniques in one but not the other may explain their differing findings.28,34 Fast-food or total dietary intake, and home availability of energy-dense foods, were not objectively assessed, limiting our ability to determine whether the physical presence of fast-food outlets and convenience stores could be translated into an increased consumption of energy-dense foods. Nevertheless, current evidence suggests that easily accessible fast-food outlets and convenience stores may result in greater consumption of unhealthy foods and higher energy intake.90
The disproportionate distribution of food sources that contributes to the development of unhealthy behaviors among these communities and the consequent disease burden deeply affect not only individuals and families, but also society as a whole. Environmental justice will be achieved, says the Environmental Protection Agency,
when everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.93
Handpick; use straw mulch; weed; use row covers; destroy crop residue; rotate crops. In the nymph state, they can be controlled with diatomaceous earth (food grade). If they continue to be a problem, a few sprays of Spinosad, an organic pesticide, will get rid of the beetles. Always use products at dawn or dusk to avoid harming beneficial insects. 2b1af7f3a8