Strawberries, The Number One Most Toxic Produce


Strawberries.  They’re gorgeous and nutritious… the epitome of healthy food. Right?

That depends.  If they’re conventionally grown, then not so much. 

Americans eat around eight pounds of fresh strawberries a year. Fresh, chemical covered strawberries.  We’re talking about chemicals that have been linked to cancer and reproductive damage that have been banned in other countries. 

The annual Dirty Dozen™ list for 2016 just released by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has revealed that strawberries were bad enough to be the first to bump apples out of the #1 spot on the list, a position they’ve held for the last five years.  That’s saying something. 

According to the EWG:

Testing done by the USDA in 2009 and 2014 have shown an average of 5.75 different pesticides per sample, compared to 1.74 pesticides per sample for all other produce.  In addition, strawberry growers are using enormous amounts 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 organism in the soil. 

(Umm… hello?  The organisms are needed to keep the plants healthy.)

EWG also stated that:

The USDA’s 2014 strawberry tests found almost ALL of the samples (98%) had residues of at least one pesticide.  Approximately 40% had residues of 10 or more pesticides.  The dirtiest sample had residues of 17 different pesticides.  Nine samples even contained pesticides illegal for use on strawberries!   Strawberry growers used 60 different pesticides in various combinations.

How bad are some of these chemicals?  Some are fairly harmless (reportedly), but some have been linked to cancer, reproductive and developmental damage, hormone disruption and neurological problems.  No big deal, right?  Here are some of the nastiest ones:

  1. Carbendazim: a hormone-disrupting fungicide that damages the male reproductive system, was detected on about 30% of the 2014 samples.  The European Union has banned it because of its intense toxicity.  It still baffles me that we (the U.S.) consider ourselves a super power and yet we continue to allow the poisoning of our people. 
  2. Bifenthrin:  An insecticide that California regulators have designated a possible human carcinogen and was found on more than 40% of the samples in 2014.
  3. Malathion:  Found on more than 20% of the 2009 samples and 10% 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 mosquitoes and other insects.  In addition, malaoxon, a particularly toxic chemical formed when malathion breaks down, showed up on more than 10% of the 2009 samples.

Just like most produce, strawberries used to be only a seasonal treat.  But now, increased pesticide use and chemically-aided growing methods have made cheap strawberries available year round.  Around three-fourths of the ones sold in the US are grown in California.  Nearly 300 pounds of pesticides are applied to each acre of strawberries.  300 pounds!!

Bottom Line:

If you love strawberries, buy the organic varieties or grow them organically yourself!  If you can’t do either… skip them entirely.  For a printable list of the Dirty Dozen™ and the Clean Fifteen™, check out EWG’s website.  This is a perfect way to be strategic when your shopping! 

To learn more about pesticide use on our food crops, check out the book, “The Myths of Safe Pesticides” by André Leu.

Join the Conversation


  1. says: Christopher Wunsch

    UNBELIEVABLE …what this “free Country” allows to poison the “free people” of this country…if its not GMO’s, its Pharmaceuticals, Pesticides….hey, there is a common denominator….Chemicals!

  2. says: Elizabeth

    I want to say it’s shocking but it really isn’t , by now I am not shocked by anything, everywhere you turn, at any business you look it’s not about providing healthy products or produce but how much money can be made. This is a disgusting world we live in where money and profits are much more important than human life.

    1. says: Kim Johnson

      I agree with you Elizabeth! I know money needs to be made, businesses are there for profits, but it is sad that there’s no line they aren’t willing to cross. I sometimes think too that they don’t always realize what a disaster they are creating. 🙁



  4. says: Colby Johnson

    Thanks for the article! People need to be reminded of this sort of stuff. It’s easy to fall back into the mindset of “it’s fruit, it’s healthy,” when the fact is that endocrine disruptors, calcium channel blockers, and all manner of toxic agent orange-lookalikes are just as harmful to your health as many of the chemicals listed on junk food packages. I dare say you’d be better off with low doses of mercury poisoning than these synthetic toxins. At LEAST the body knows how to deal with mercury; you can’t say that much for most harsh pesticides/herbicides.

  5. says: Shawna

    How do you know this is a fact do you have a link where this information is made public or where you got your rsearch, not because I doubt you I would just like to read more. Thanks for the information 🙂

    1. says: Kim Johnson

      Hi Shawna! I got the info from I believe I have a link in the middle of the article (I meant to!), but if not, scroll to the bottom of the article and there is one for the source, which is! It’s a great resource for all sorts of info including the Dirty Dozen & The Clean Fifteen which really helps when you are trying to save money while eating better! You are so welcome! 🙂

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