Study Finds Strawberry Contains The Highest Pesticide Levels

If your family loves to eat fresh strawberries, you might be stunned to discover that they were found to contain the highest level of pesticide residues of all tested fruits and vegetables (even after you wash them) according to the Environmental Working Groups 2016 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. The USDA’s 2014 strawberry tests found that:

  • Almost all samples (98%) had detectable residues of at least one pesticide.
  • Some 40 percent had residues of 10 or more pesticides.
  • The dirtiest strawberry sample had residues of 17 different pesticides.
  • Strawberry growers used 60 different pesticides in various combinations.

On average, strawberries contained 5.7 different pesticides per sample, dramatically higher than the 1.74 pesticides per sample found in all other produce.

What are they contaminated with? Pesticides and fungicides known to cause cancer, reproductive and developmental damage, hormone disruption and neurological problems, many banned in other countries. Three are of particular concern.

  • Carbendazim, a hormone-disrupting fungicide that damages the male reproductive system, was detected on 30 percent of 2014 samples. The European Union has banned it because of its intense toxicity.
  • Bifenthrin, found on more than 40 percent of samples in 2014, is an insecticide that California regulators have designated a possible human carcinogen.
  • Malathion, found on more than 20 percent of samples in 2009 and 10 percent in 2014, is toxic to the nervous system and, according to the International Agency for Cancer Research, a probable human carcinogen. It is often sprayed to eradicate mosquitos and other insects.

Strawberries used to be a seasonal treat, available only during the spring and summer months. Today, it’s become a year round commodity thanks to the heavy use many different chemicals. Environmental and chemical safety advocates are particularly concerned with “the jaw-dropping volumes of poisonous gases – some developed for chemical warfare but now banned by the Geneva Conventions – to sterilize their fields before planting, killing every pest, weed and other living thing in the soil.”(2) 

California data shows that in 2014, nearly 300 pounds of pesticides were applied to each acre of strawberries. In contrast, only 5 pounds are applied to an acre of corn. This represents only 20% of the chemicals used. The remaining 80% used, more than 9.7 million pounds in 2014, were poisonous gases injected into the soil.

Clearly, if you love strawberries, you MUST protect the health of your family by purchasing organic strawberries and the other fruits and veggies listed in the Dirty Dozen list instead. Yes, they will be about 50% more expensive but, as more and more growers switch to organic farming, the price should drop.

Learn more about it at:


  1. EWG Dirty Dozen – EWG’s 2016 Shoppers Guide To Pesticides in Produce
  2. Walker B, Lunder S. Pesticides + Poison Gases = Cheap, Year-Round Strawberries. Environmental Working Group Copyright 2016

2016 Dirty Dozen

(Due to the high pesticide levels found in FDA testing, we recommend purchasing organic versions of these fruits and vegetables)

1 – Strawberries
2 – Apples
3 – Nectarines
4 – Peaches
5 – Celery
6 – Grapes
7 – Cherries
8 – Spinach
9 – Tomatoes
10 – Sweet Bell Peppers
11 – Cherry Tomatoes
12 – Cucumbers