Bail on kale: It has too many pesticides!

March 21, 2019

Americans have been nothing short of kale-obsessed for the past few years: In fact—following a flirtation with broccoli in the 1980s and pesto in the 1990s—we have become so fixated on the leafy, green vegetable that it has seen a 400% increase on U.S. restaurant menus since 2008, according to Technomic, a research service for the food and beverage industry.

But foodies should get ready to move on to another “k-food” in the near future—maybe kelp, or kimchi, or kefir or kombucha. An annual study by a nonprofit environmental group has found that—despite its high levels of calcium, iron, and vitamins A and K —kale just might be less healthful than you think.

Interestingly enough, Kale ranked third on the Environmental Working Group’s “2019 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce”—a list of the fruits and vegetables with the highest pesticide residues, according to a recent report by Fortune magazine. That was a big jump for the leafy green, which hasn’t appeared at all on the list since 2009.

“More than 92% of kale samples had two or more pesticide residues detected, and a single sample could contain up to 18 different residues,” the report read.

Strawberries and spinach took the number one and two spots, respectively, the business news outlet reported. Kale and spinach samples had, on average, 1.1 to 1.8 times more pesticide residue by weight than any other crop, said the EWG.

Other foods on the Dirty Dozen list, in decreasing order of their pesticide residues, include: nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, and potatoes.

The annual study looks at pesticide levels on nearly 41,000 fruits and vegetables that are tested by the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture.

Unlike other pesticide-focused studies, this one does not search for a specific brand, such as the weed killer used in Roundup.

Pesticides are regularly used in agriculture, of course, and food service companies say the levels are far below those that have been found to be unsafe for human consumption.

Not all fruits and veggies were denigrated, however. The EWG also put out its “Clean 15” list of the produce with the lowest levels of pesticide residue. Avocados topped that list, followed by sweet corn, pineapples, frozen sweet peas, onions, papayas, eggplants, asparagus, kiwis, cauliflower, cantaloupes, broccoli, mushrooms, and honeydew melons. .

Research contact: @ewg

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