by Leslie Cox; Friday, January 10, 2014

Who knew pesticide residue levels on our fruits and vegetables are so high? And on organic produce too!

harvest of carrotsAccording to data obtained from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), in a two year testing period between September 2011 and September 2013, the agency found 78.4 per cent of non-organic produce contained pesticide residues. Additional disturbing news is 4.7 per cent of those samples actually violated the maximum allowable limits for pesticide residue as set by CFIA.

CFIA also tested organic produce through the same period and found 45.8 per cent of the samples contained pesticide residue. Of that number, 1.8 per cent of the produce violated the maximum allowable limits. This is even more alarming.

Note: Use of some non-synthetic pesticides is permitted in organic production. The data collected on the organic produce was not broken down to determine what proportion of the results reflected these allowable pesticides.

Ninety-five per cent of all produce samples tested was imported. Only five per cent was grown in Canada. Broken down further…46 per cent of the imported samples tested positive for at least one pesticide. Forty-three per cent of the home-grown samples tested positive.

But the real red flag is…CFIA deemed none of the produce tested was a health risk. Not even the organic and non-organic samples that tested over the maximum allowable limits. All produce was given a stamp of approval and the organic produce was allowed to keep its organic designation.

Where does that leave us…the consumers? We are paying extra for the organic foods which we believe are a healthier choice and in some instances, we are being exposed to pesticides over the maximum allowable limits.

Granted, the test results are reported in parts per million (ppm) which represents very tiny measurements. And the levels found in non-organic produce were much higher than those found in organic.

For example: the average test result for thiabendazole, a fungicide used primarily to control such diseases as mould and blight, was 0.3 ppm on non-organic apples…roughly fifteen times higher than the 0.02 ppm average for the same chemical found on the organic apples tested.

But my argument is: there is a cumulative effect with these chemicals. It is the same principle as the pounds that are added to our body from ingesting all of the good food we enjoy throughout the holiday season. Not only that…but once ingested, both scenarios are hard to reverse.

We must extend some sympathy towards the organic farmers. Many of them are likely obeying all of the regulations as set out by the federal organization, Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB).

Unfortunately, there may also be a few who are cheating. The test results on the organic produce where the maximum allowable limits have been exceeded lends support to this theory.

However…pesticides, fungicides, herbicides…they are all insidious. It is not outside the realm of possibility that sprays can be carried away in a stiff breeze, landing where they may on someone else’s property. More probable…rain leaches some of the residue into the ground water, carrying it into little feeder streams that empty our rivers and lakes.

Even more probable…some of the residue remains in the soil where it slowly builds up.

Pretty good arguments towards explaining why test results for pesticide residues have almost doubled in just the last ten years.


Survey Results of Pesticide Contaminated Vegetables
Vegetable Tested No. of Samples % Positive for Pesticide Residues
grapes 30 77%
strawberries 15 67%
potatoes 41 63%
tomatoes 32 50%
lettuce 90 48%
apples 214 45%
peppers 23 43%
cucumbers 14 43%
bananas 24 42%
oranges 47 38%
pears 21 38%
carrots 84 30%