Super Toxic Foods: Strawberries

Beautiful, plump, deep red strawberries attract even the finickiest eater to enjoy their juicy sweetness in their mouth. They are the most popular berry in the world. Strawberries, like other berries, are famous in for their rich source of polyphenols. The phenols are not only responsible for its red color, but serve as potent antioxidants. These antioxidants help protect cell structures in the body and prevent oxygen damage in all of the body’s organ systems. Strawberries’ unique phenol content makes them a heart-protective, anti-cancer, and an anti-inflammatory fruit, all rolled into one.  Thus, strawberries are considered a Super Food.

However, non­-organic strawberries contain 54 pesticide residues (even after washing and using vegetable-fruit wash)

Methyl iodide causes cancer, brain damage and miscarriages

according to the Environmental Working Group. The EWG ranks strawberries as one of the three worst fruits and vegetables with regard to pesticide exposure. Peaches and celery are the other two. To make matters more alarming, California is gearing up to approve methyl iodide, a harmful pesticide¸ despite the urging of 54 eminent academic scientists and physicians to prevent the chemical’s use. Methyl iodide is so carcinogenic that it’s used to induce cancer in the lab and kills a wide range of tiny animals, weeds and fungi that live in soil, many of which are detrimental to strawberry growth. It has been shown to cause cancer, brain damage and miscarriages. Methyl iodide will be injected as a gas into the fields across California and the U.S., exposing farm workers and surrounding communities. It was approved during the George W. Bush administration as a replacement for methyl bromide, which was found to pose a potential threat to the ozone layer.

“Because of methyl iodide’s high volatility and water solubility, broad use of this chemical in agriculture will guarantee substantial releases to air, surface waters and groundwater, and will result in exposures to many people,” scientists wrote to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency before the chemical was approved by the federal government.

Not eating strawberries at all or eating only organic varieties may be your safest bet. No synthetic pesticides or fertilizers can be applied for at least three years on the soil before organic food can be planted and these materials are banned from use during the farming process. When your health and the health of your family is on the line think about which price you are really willing to pay.



15 thoughts on “Super Toxic Foods: Strawberries

  1. Omg how unhealthy and un-democratic our country can be…I eat non organic strawberries every other day! I am glad our society is creating an awareness and a new trend in organic foods…

  2. There’s a bit of misinformation out there about strawberries and pesticides. I’m a mom, and I work for the California Strawberry Commission. What I’ve learned in my 4 ½ years working here is that farming is way more complicated than what the media conveys. Over the years, I’ve met many of the 500 family farmers who grow strawberries in California. These famers live where they grow their fruit. I can honestly say that they care passionately about the health and safety of their workers, their communities, and their families. There are dozens of regulations (it was more than 70 last time we counted) they must follow to make sure that pesticides are used only when necessary. In fact, many “conventional” growers use certified organic methods, which makes them anything but conventional!

    The Environmental Working Group’s list has been reviewed by a panel of toxicologists: they find the analysis misleading, resulting in misstatements about pesticide residues. For another perspective, check out Two Radically Different Views of Celery at the enviro blog Red Green and Blue.

    To address the comments about methyl bromide has been phased out for more than 60% of California’s strawberry acreage, and it is dropping every year. The new pesticide mentioned in a previous comment is not sprayed on strawberries, but is used to get rid of plant diseases in the soil months before planting. It is completely gone from the soil before the new strawberry plants are put in the ground. With California’s regulations so much stricter than the 47 other states that have approved use (and are using it for other crops), it is not likely that many strawberry fields will be treated with this material.

    • @Carolyin: I agree and completely understand that farming is more complicated than simply watering seeds and watching food grow.

      The proposed method of use is injecting methyl iodide as a gas in the strawberry fields. More than half of the applied fumigant will evaporate into the air, exposing the farmers, their families, neighbors, and the entire community. The fumigant will last in the atmosphere for 12 days. The farm workers may have protective gear on, but will the children playing in the yard nearby? Breathing methyl iodide fumes can cause lung, liver, kidney and neurotoxicity. It is also surprising that the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) has set acceptable exposure levels for methyl iodide that are 120 times higher than recommended by its own scientists and an eight-person panel the department commissioned to peer-review its work.

      I would really like to see the DPR or Arysta LifeScience Corporation, living and working in these fields and feeding the strawberries (and other foods) to their families. Would we get a similar response to what Erin Brockovich got when she asked her opposing counsel to drink the tainted water?
      The truth is, there’s no long-term data looking at the health and environment implications of using the substance on such a large scale or in more populated areas. I certainly don’t want my friends or family to be the experiment. Especially, when there is mounting data showing how unsafe methyl iodide really is.

  3. Carolyn: Thanks for the providing the perspective from the other side. Great to hear even conventional farmers are resorting to organic certified processes. I’m always leaning more on the side of caution as opposed to believing propaganda. I’ve a really hard time understanding how something that alters the soil (kills plant diseases) is completely gone before strawberry plants are planted.

    Call me a skeptic .. consumers are always told its fine, it will never affect you, its safe .. but years after that we always find side effects. History has proven over and over that consumers are always compromised for profits and greed.

    • They are not in the same predicament as strawberries are for now… once harmful pesticides are approved for use for one fruit/vegetable, there is no stopping “them” from using it on other fruits/vegetables. Florida is already using methyl iodide on tomatoes, strawberries, peppers, and nursery crops. You might find this article useful in figuring out which fruits and vegetables contain the most pesticides:

      • thanks, good to know about toxic foods.

        what if i peel/remove/cut the skin of strawberry and eat the flesh? do the bad stuff get into the strawberry too?

  4. California growers must comply with the regulations formulated by the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR). On top of these state regulations, the permit to apply most pesticides is granted at the local (county) level. A plan must be submitted to the county agricultural commissioner, who can add additional restrictions as local conditions may dictate. Or, the commissioner can refuse to issue any permit at all if not satisfied that the plan can be implemented safely. Given the significantly greater restrictions proposed by DPR, it is not likely that many acres of land suitable for growing strawberries will be able to be fumigated with methyl iodide.

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