Hold Up, There Are a Ton of Pesticides In Kale Now? Really?

Today the Environmental Working Group released this year’s update to their Shopper’s Guide to Produce. Their “Dirty Dozen” list ranks the pieces of produce that, according to their analysis, turn up with the highest concentration of pesticides and/or the the greatest number of different pesticides.

The screaming headline from this year’s Dirty Dozen: After strawberries and spinach, kale comes in as the third “dirtiest” fruit or vegetable.



America’s beloved leafy green superfood—found everywhere from farmers’ markets to Chick-Fil-A—is a newcomer to the Dirty Dozen list this year. According to EWG, the USDA hadn’t tested kale in a decade. What they discovered is that more than 90 percent of tested samples of kale had two or more pesticide residues—and multiple kale samples had 18 different pesticides.

Does this mean we should all stop eating kale? (Gasp.)

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“I am not at all compelled by the percentage of samples that contain pesticide residue. The amount of residue is what’s important, not just that they are detected. Calling out detected residue is alarmist,” Tom Brenna, Ph.D., Professor of Pediatrics and of Human Nutrition at University of Texas at Austin. “The value of consumers who buy organic is to maintain the pressure on growers, processors, and vendors to keep residues low. That’s a good thing,” adds Brennan.

Basically your thyroid will likely burn out from all of the kale you would have to eat before any lingering pesticide on the kale harms you.

There’s also research that shows some people think eating non-organic foods is actually bad for you. Uh-huh, yep. But, no, it’s not true.

“The study—out of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health—found that many people thought organic was an important factor in whether a particular food item was healthy, and some participants associated negative health outcomes with consuming non-organic foods,” says Tamika Sims, Ph.D., Director, Food Technology Communications at the International Food Information Council Foundation.

Bottom line: Don’t let the Dirty Dozen dominate your produce selection decision-making, especially if you can’t afford or find organic versions of strawberries, spinach, kale, etc. The benefits to eating a produce-packed diet, organic or conventional, far outweigh the “risk” of any possible pesticide exposure.

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