Killer Strawberries

By Anita Wong, CFJC Intern

Strawberries are a popular fruit that can be found year-round in grocery stores. A couple weeks ago, I purchased a small box of strawberries from my local Safeway because they were advertising a “buy one, get one free” deal. The following week in my Environmental Health class at SFSU, a classmate of mine mentioned that strawberries contain a large amount of pesticides.

This fact caught my attention and I researched into it when I got home. I found Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) list of “most contaminated fruits and vegetables”, which uses data from the FDA and EPA. Strawberries made it to the top of the list of produce containing high amounts of pesticides, along with bell peppers, spinach, peaches, and nectarines. An average of six different pesticides was detected in one strawberry analyzed by the FDA and EPA. Farmers who grow strawberries use fungicides like captan, benomyl, and iprodione, which are all known carcinogens. Benomyl is known to be a reproductive toxin and another fungicide called vinclozolin is a known hormone disruptor in males. The buildup of these pesticides poses health hazards, especially among women and children with each strawberry consumed.

Recently featured in food policy news related to strawberries and the use of harmful pesticides, farmers spray strawberry crops with methyl iodide to treat the soil. Methyl iodide is not detected in the strawberry and poses no health hazards to consumers, but it is harmful to farm workers who use it. Farm workers who were exposed to methyl iodide reported having runny noses, sore throats, and a burning sensation in the eyes.

I had unknowingly supported a bad cause when I purchased those strawberries from Safeway. After researching strawberries and how they came from the farm to my stomach, I want to make other consumers like myself aware of health hazards from purchasing certain fruits and vegetables.

Here are some helpful tips I found and would like to share to reduce health risks from pesticide consumption:

1. Know where your food comes from.
2. Buy organic.
3. Buy seasonal.
4. Buy produce with fewer pesticides present like blueberries instead of strawberries.
5. Grow your own fruit and vegetables, if you can.

You can refer to the list of most contaminated produce here: http://www.sdearthtimes.com/et0996/et0996s5.html.

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