Everyone should eat more fruits and vegetables but when you have IC this can be challenging. Thankfully, the produce aisle is usually our friend. The vast majority of vegetables are IC friendly with the exception of, perhaps, concentrated tomato products. Fruits are certainly more tricky because citrus fruits contain very high levels of acid. We tend to do better with bananas, apples, pears, blueberries and so forth. But there’s another danger lurking in the fresh produce section that many aren’t aware of. You could be eating fruits and veggies contaminated with pesticides.
Every year, the Environmental Working Group reviews the testing done by the USA Food and Drug Administration to determine which foods are the most and least contaminated with pesticides and other harmful chemicals. During this years study, they found one sample of regular (non organic) strawberries that contained a whopping 22 identifiable pesticide residues. 98% of strawberries, peaches, potatoes, nectarines, cherries and apples tested positive for atleast one pesticide residue. Spinach had, on average, twice as much pesticide residue by weight when compared to any other crop.
For the typical IC patient who follows a bladder friendly diet, low acid pears, apples and potatoes are some of our favorite foods. The EWG study has found, again, that these can contain remarkably high levels of pesticides. We strongly encourage you to buy organic versions of these IC friendly foods. In contrast, there are some foods that you can purchase without paying the extra price for organics. The EWG Clean Fifteen & Dirty Dozen Food Guides will help you purchase safer foods!
Dirty Dozen Foods
The EWG suggests that you buy, whenever possible, organic versions of the foods on the Dirty Dozen list, including:
- Strawberries – 1/3 of all samples contained 10 or more pesticides. One strawberry contained 22 pesticide residues.
- Spinach – 97% contained pesticide residues including permethrin, a neurotoxic pesticide
- Nectarines – 94% contained 2 or more pesticides
- Apples – 90% contained pesticide residues.. and 80% contained diphenylamine, a pesticide banned in Europe
- Grapes – More than 96% contained an average of five different pesticide residues
- Peaches – More than 99% contained an average of four pesticide residues
- Cherries – An average of 5 pesticides were detected, with 30% containing iprodione, a pesticide that is banned in Europe for its potential risk of cancer.
- Pears – More than 50% had residues for five or more pesticides, some with high concentrations of insecticides and fungicides.
- Tomatoes – One sample contained 15 different pesticides and breakdowns products. Nearly four pesticides were found on the average tomato.
- Celery – More than 95% of samples tested positive, with one sample containing 13 pesticides.
- Potatoes – Potatoes contain more pesticide residue by weight than any other crop, usually chlorpropham.
- Sweet Bell Peppers – 90% contained pesticide residues. While sweet peppers contained fewerresidues, they tend to be more toxic to human health.
- Hot Peppers – Are on the list because they contained traces of highly toxic pesticides.
Clean Fifteen Foods
Fruits and veggies on the Clean Fifteen list are usually ok to purchase non-organic varieties.
- Avocados – Less than 1% of samples tested positive for avocadoes. Out of 360 sampled, only one pesticide was found on any of the fruit.
- Sweet Corn – Less than 2% of sweet corn samples had pesticide residues. Unfortunately, a small amount of sweet corn is Roundup Ready genetically engineered seeds. They encourage you to purchase organic to avoid GE crops.
- Pineapples – 90% of pineapples had no detectable pesticide residues
- Cabbages – 86% of cabbage samples had no detectable pesticide residues. Only 2 of more than 700 heads of cabbage contained pesticide residues.
- Onions – Less than 10% of onion samples contained any pesticide residues and none contained more than 3 pesticides.
- Frozen Sweet Peas – Roughly 80% had no detectable pesticides.
- Papayas – None of the 750 samples of papayas contained more than 3 pesticides and 80% had no detectable pesticide residues.
- Asparagus – 90% of samples had no pesticide residue
- Mangoes – 78% contained no pesticide residue and no more than 2 pesticides were detected on any of the mangoes tested.
- Eggplant – About 75% of eggplants contained no residue… and no more than 3 were detected on any sample.
- Honeydew – About half of the melons tested had no residues though some had up to four pesticides found.
- Kiwi – 65% had no pesticide residues… though six different pesticides were detected on various samples.
- Cantaloupes – More than 60% contained no pesticide residues and only 10% had more than one pesticide found.
- Cauliflower – About half of those tested contained no pesticide residues
- Broccoli – 70% of samples had no detectable residues.
Dangers of Pesticide Consumption
Research studies have now linked high pesticide produce to poorer fertility. Two recent studies from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found a surprising association between consuming high-pesticide-residue produce and fertility problems among study participants.
Women who reported eating two or more servings per day of produce with higher pesticide residues were 26 percent less likely to have a successful pregnancy during the study than participants who ate fewer servings of these foods. Male participants who ate high-residue produce had poorer sperm quality. Both studies enrolled couples seeking treatment at a fertility clinic, and found that the frequency of eating low-residue fruits and vegetables was not associated with fertility problems.
The neurotoxic insecticide chlorpyrifos, which can harm children’s brains and nervous systems, is applied to apples, bell peppers, peaches, nectarines and other produce.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was slated to ban all uses of chlorpyrifos on foods in early 2017 but EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt reversed course after Dow Chemical, which manufactures the chemical, complained. The American Academy of Pediatrics and EWG urged Pruitt to reconsider his decision, to no avail.
The Academy, which represents 66,000 of the nation’s pediatricians, recommends that parents consult EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to help reduce their children’s ingestion of pesticides. “There is a reason pediatricians encourage parents to consult EWG’s guide and take other steps to reduce their child’s exposure pesticides,” said Dr. Philip Landrigan of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. “Pesticides can cause harm to infants, babies and young children at even low levels like those found on some foods.”
Landrigan, dean of global health and director of the Children’s Environmental Health Center at Mt. Sinai, was the principal author of the National Academy of Sciences study, Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Children. The study led to enactment of the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act, which set safety standards for pesticides on foods.
IC patients must remember that for some of us, our bladder lining may be damaged, thus allowing toxic substances in our urine to penetrate more deeply into the bladder wall. It makes total sense that we reduce our risk of exposure to toxins by avoiding those foods which contain high levels of pesticide contaminants. I follow the EWG recommendations and I hope that you will consider them too!