It's ok to Eat Non-Organic Strawberries - Food Dialogues

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It's ok to Eat Non-Organic Strawberries

Whether you choose to buy organic or not, strawberries are safe to eat.

“Is it worth it and necessary to buy organic fruits and vegetables?” That’s one of the top five questions I get asked by friends, family, and those of you who read my blog and engage with me on social media. My answer has always been the same: If you can afford organic, it’s available to you, and that’s your preference, buy organic. However, there is no significant difference between organic and conventional produce from a nutritional or safety standpoint, so if it’s beyond your budget, I’d rather see you eat regular, conventional, non-organic fruit and vegetables than not eat any fruit and vegetables at all.

Personally, I don’t buy organic fruit and vegetables unless it’s what’s on sale at the supermarket. I rinse my produce well before serving it, but even if my kids sneak a grape or take a bite of their apple before I get to wash it I don’t freak out.

So I was really surprised by the uproar that went on in the media a few months ago when the Environmental Working Group moved strawberries to the top of their Dirty Dozen list for 2016. I mean I shouldn’t be surprised by the media frenzy that comes along with news like this, but if you look at the actual statistics on pesticides in organic vs. non-organic produce you will see that there’s really no reason to get in a tizzy and stop eating conventional strawberries, or any fruit or vegetable for that matter.

Why It’s Okay to Eat Non-Organic Strawberries

A 2011 study in the Journal of Toxicology found that exposure to pesticides on produce from the Dirty Dozen list pose negligible risks, substituting organic for conventional doesn’t result in any appreciable risk reduction, and the EWG’s methods for ranking produce lacks scientific credibility. This study also found that the USDA’s Pesticide Data Program indicated that 23% of organic food samples tested positive for pesticide residues. So are you really better off with organic produce?!

A more recent 2015 study looked at updated estimates of dietary exposure to pesticides in the U.S. using the most recent findings from the FDA’s Total Diet Study. They found that chronic exposure to pesticides in the diet is at levels far below those of health concern. The author’s conclusion was very similar to my own answer above – “consumers should be encouraged to eat fruits, vegetables, and grains and should not fear the low level of pesticide residues found in such foods.”

Back to our sweet, beautiful, antioxidant-rich strawberries. I spoke with Teresa Thorne from the Alliance for Food and Farming, who reaffirmed that “both organic and conventionally grown strawberries are very safe and can be eaten with confidence. Here’s why: an analysis by a University of California toxicologist found that a child could literally eat 1,508 servings of conventionally-grown strawberries in a day and still not have any effects from pesticide residues. That is how low residues are, if present at all.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t know any adult, let alone child, who could eat that many strawberries in a day (and my kids eat A LOT!).

All that is to say, let’s focus on getting the nutrients from our fruits and veggies and stop letting fear get in the way.

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Jessica Levinson was previously part of U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance’s Digital Voices Council. All opinions expressed are the writer’s own. Funded by one or more checkoff programs.