Strawberries are delicious and loaded with antioxidants, but could the pesticides on them outweigh their health benefits? Strawberry pesticides are something that I didn't know about for a long time, but once I did, my thoughts about conventional strawberries changed dramatically.
So the question is–what strawberry pesticides are being used, are they seriously dangerous or not that bad? And do you need to buy organic only or grow your own?
Strawberries are particularly vulnerable to pesticide contamination since they are grown in the soil, are really vulnerable to pests, and they have no outer peel that you can remove.
So, Houston, we have a problem.
You think you are helping your family eat healthier by having them eat fresh fruits, but not so fast. You serve them strawberries since berries are one of the fruits that are lower in carbs, and you add some strawberries to a morning smoothie, or you make this Berry Chia Pudding, these Gluten-free Strawberry Scones, or these Strawberry Popsicles.
But instead of giving your family health producing foods, you could be literally killing them with toxins.
Strawberries on Pesticides
What's On My Food is a fascinating site showing details of pesticides found on both organic and conventional produce, the type of toxicity associated with each pesticide, and what other foods commonly have that pesticides on them. I warn you, however, reading what is on that site will cause you to never want to eat conventional produce again.
That page shows a list of the forty-five (yes, that's 45!) pesticides found on strawberries in their most recent tests. Yikes.
Their information, however, is not totally accurate. Things might be worse than they seem. (Is that really possible?)
Tetrahydrophthalimide / Captan Fungicide
For example, the site lists Tetrahydrophthalimide (Captan) as being the pesticides (it's really a fungicide) that was found the most on strawberries, in 55.3% of conventional strawberries. And yes, it's still being used today. For some reason, however, the site doesn't list toxicity concerns for this product.
I don't know why that is since EWG states clearly that Captan is cancer-causing and has been banned for use on certain crops by the US government. Then why is it on my strawberries??!? (source)
Toxic Strawberry Pesticides Cocktail
The other thing that isn't documented on What's On My Food, or on many sites at all, for that matter, is the fact that pesticides (and other potential toxins) are almost always studied ALONE–not in conjunction with other toxins.
It's well known that some things work better with other things. Iron works best when taken with vitamin C, turmeric seems to work best when paired with black pepper (so you might want to add some black pepper to this Adrenal Fatigue Tonic), and guess what? Pesticides can be more toxic when combined with other toxins.
According to this study, the resulting oxidative stress-related enzyme gene expression increases appeared to show that together, pyrimethanil, cyprodinil and fludioxonil did more damage than they do on their own. Well, what do you know–those 3 pesticides were all found on strawberries.
What I find to be most disconcerting is that What's On My Food didn't list any toxicology concerns for cyprodinil, but the Coleman, O'Neil, et al study, said:
Cyprodinil was the most toxic agent individually
all three agents showed significant reductions in cellular ATP, at concentrations that were more than tenfold lower than those which significantly impaired cellular viability. The effects on energy metabolism were reflected in their marked toxic effects on mitochondrial membrane potential. In addition, evidence of oxidative stress was seen in terms of a fall in cellular thiols coupled with increases in the expression of enzymes associated with reactive species formation, such as GSH peroxidase and superoxide dismutase.
Huh? So someone tell me what is not toxic about that????
Risks of Strawberry Pesticides
Out of the 45 pesticides listed on What's On My Food, there are known carcinogens (they cause cancer), endocrine disruptors, neurotoxins, developmental or reproductive toxins, and bee toxins as well. And just in case you think that endocrine disruption doesn't sound as scary as carcinogen, anything that is affected by hormones is affected by endocrine disruption, and endocrine disruptors can cause cancerous tumors. Ugh.
In addition, aside from the above risks, prenatal pesticide exposure has also been linked to reduced IQ of children. (source)
Now that list is from 2009, so things may have gotten better, right? Yes, but things are still bad and there are a lot of places to see just how bad it is.
More Recent Strawberry Pesticide Problems
In 2017, in a single study by EWG, one single sample of conventional strawberries found 20 pesticides on the fruit. (source)
In 2016, federal examiners found that 98% of all conventional strawberries had pesticide residue. (source)
In 2008, in Australia, testing results found:
- Levels of pesticides over the allowed amount
- Pesticides that weren't allowed in Australia
- Organic strawberries that contained residue of the fungicide pyrimethanil, but based on the amount it's thought that it was contamination from other crops. This underscores the importance of taking precaution even when buying organic! (source)
I guess that one of the only good things I can say about strawberry pesticides is that one horrid pesticide, methyl iodide, is no longer being used in the US on strawberries. What's sad about this is that Canada stopped using this toxin in 1987, but it took until 2012 for the US to catch up. (source)
Here's a very disconcerting quote about methyl iodide. I shudder to think of how much of this toxin myself and my family may have eaten over the years.
“Everyone agrees, without exception, that methyl iodide is a very toxic compound. It's very reactive. That means it interacts with living tissue in very toxic ways, causing cell damage and damage to cell structures, DNA, or chromosomes,” explains Ted Schettler, MD, MPH, science director at Science and Environmental Health Network.
“The upshot is it can cause a lot of health effects, including cancer and damage to tissues that are developing. In animal studies, it killed the fetuses of developing animals exposed by inhalation; fetuses were killed at relatively low doses. Nobody doubts it's a nasty chemical.” (source)
Talk about a toxic messola. Thank goodness at least one ingredient in the toxic soup has been removed.
What about Organic Strawberries?
Some people make the argument that there are pesticides used on organic produce as well, so you might as well save money and skip spending extra for organic.
Does that make any sense?
There are several posts on the internet making such claims but from the information above, it's clear that this is NOT the case and that there are simply LOADS more toxic pesticides on conventional strawberries than on organic ones.
These articles state that companies like EWG are not evaluating things in an appropriate manner. They refer to this kind of information as the basis for their claims:
While conventional produce was between 2.9 and 4.8 times more likely to contain detectable pesticide residues than organic produce, samples of organic produce frequently contained residues. The PDP data, in fact, indicated that 23 percent of organic food samples tested positive for pesticide residues. (source)
Yes, there are still pesticide residues, but as you can see on What's On My Food, there as less and sometimes none of certain pesticides on the organic produce.
Basically, here is the deal. Do you want more toxins, or less? More endocrine disruptors, carcinogens, reproductive toxins, or less?
I know what I want.
Can You Wash Pesticides Off of Strawberries?
Well, the answer is yes–and no.
According to this study, you can wash some pesticides off of strawberries, but the amount that is removed depends on what technique you use, and some of them are methods the typical homeowner either wouldn't want to do or wouldn't have at his / her disposal. Which of you has ozone water or an ultrasonic cleaner in your house :)? And boiling? Sorry but I typically don't want my strawberries boiled, thank you–not unless I'm making jam.
Now, you might look at that study and see that tap water was one of the cleaning methods used–and they apparently saw a reduction of 19.8 – 68.1% reduction of the toxins. However, that's a HUGE range! Why is that? And how do you know that you are getting closer to the 68.1% off and not the 19.8%?
And also note that the study only tested for 10 fungicides and 6 insecticides.
Remember that here, there were 45 (yes forty-five!!) pesticides found on strawberries. Again, that number has likely changed since then, but there have been more than 16 cited in recent years.
However, there are some toxic pesticides and herbicides that are actually IN the produce that you eat, since they are taken up in the plant through the roots while it's growing. This is similar to glyphosate, that horrid toxin that has even been detected in our water and our air. It's simply impossible to get away from it. As a side note, our family is currently using this supplement that has been shown to remove glyphosate from the gut while rebuilding gut villi. You can see the preclinical trial results here. You can use code wholenewmom to get $50 off your first order and try it for yourself.
A Product Proven to Remove Strawberry Pesticides
My produce washing technique has been to put a small amount of non-toxic dish soap and white vinegar in water, soak the produce, and then scrub if possible. However, I always wondered if it was really working at all. We do buy organic whenever possible, but even so, there are pesticides on organic produce too.
I looked to see if there were any products really proven to work, but never found one.
Interestingly, when doing the research for the update of this post, I found this information about a product that I have never tried (but that I have been looking for!) According to that article, Eat Cleaner spray reduced some strawberry pesticides up to 98%. However, that's only a few of them. I have reached out to the company about this to find out more. I think this is very promising, but I would like to find out about the other pesticides too.
Strawberries and pesticides are at topic that very much needs to be addressed.
No wonder there are so many cases of auto-immune disease, autism, cancer, thyroid disease, adrenal fatigue, and more going on today. When I was growing up, it was pretty much unheard of, especially with children, but these days, it's becoming commonplace.
With all of these chemicals barraging our bodies and the toxic buildup that ensues, what else would anyone expect to happen?
Our bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made and our creation was made perfect. I'm not against everything big business, but the slovenliness with which some companies use toxins just to make things simpler, or make their bottom line a little better at the expense of our health, makes me sick. Literally.
This information about strawberries and pesticides is enough to make your head spin, but let's keep our heads on straight. Let's plow ahead, deciding how to make healthy decisions for ourselves and our families.
Given the plethora and toxicity of strawberry pesticides, this is what I recommend.
- Buy Organic Strawberries whenever possible
- Wash strawberries really well.
- Consider a product that's proven to remove pesticides and such like Eat Clean Produce Wash.