Are raisins worth the risk of high pesticide levels? Choose organic

August 13, 2020 by Joel Fuhrman, MD


Each year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) uses data from the USDA Pesticide Data Program (PDP) to create their Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen rankings of fruits and vegetables. The Dirty Dozen list allows shoppers to see at a glance which conventionally grown items – such as strawberries and apples – contain high levels of pesticide residue, and should be avoided, in favor of organic versions. This year, EWG highlighted a problem with a popular item: raisins. 

The pesticide problem

The USDA measures pesticide residues on thousands of fruit and vegetable samples every year. Each year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) uses that data to rank fresh produce based on a collection of metrics, such as the percent of samples with detected pesticides, average number of pesticides found, and average concentration of pesticide. 

In 2020, EWG published its list as usual but added a notice about a food not usually included in its rankings – raisins. EWG usually only considers fresh produce in their rankings, however, USDA tested raisins in 2018 (for the first time since 2007), and based on EWG’s ranking methodology, raisins would be #1 on the Dirty Dozen list if they were included.

Learn more: Get to know the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen

Raisins gone rancid

The EWG found raisins to be a particular concern for several reasons:

  • The frequency of pesticide detection – 99 percent of samples had residues of at least two pesticides, more than any of the 47 fresh produce items tested
  • Raisins are a common food for children, who are likely more vulnerable to potential harmful effects of pesticides than adults.1

Source:
Neurodevelopmental effects in children associated with exposure to organophosphate pesticides

 

What pesticides are we talking about here?

The specific pesticides detected on most raisin samples were a neonicotinoid pesticide (imidacloprid) plus bifenthrin and tebuconazole, which have shown developmental neurotoxicity in animal studies.2-4

Sources:
EFSA Panel on Plant Protection Products and their Residues (PPR)

Neurodevelopmental consequences of gestational and lactational exposure to pyrethroids in rats.

The effects of perinatal tebuconazole exposure on adult neurological, immunological, and reproductive function in rats. 

Raisins: #1 on the Dirty Dozen list? 

 

Organic raisins are better than conventional

Raisins are a dried fruit, which means their sweetness is concentrated. You should limit your consumption of any dried fruit, compared to fresh fruit. If you are going to use raisins, it makes sense to choose organic, especially for children. Fumigant residues are not measured as part of the USDA’s Pesticide Data Program, but organic production forbids the use of fumigants.5  The gases used for fumigation may be hazardous for workers, the environment, and consumers alike.

Eating vegetables and fruits, whether organic or conventional, protects against chronic diseases. Even the highest pesticide residue levels detected on produce are very far below the chronic reference dose, the estimated dose of a chemical a person could be exposed to daily throughout life without any harmful effects.6 

In addition to the environmental benefits of organic agriculture, there may also be health benefits. That’s why I recommend choosing organic produce whenever possible.

Related: Should we only buy organic produce?

Sources:

Dietary exposure to pesticide residues from commodities alleged to contain the highest contamination levels. 

Action items

Choose organic raisins in recipes: 

For an irresistible salad dressing recipe that’s a member favorite, try Dr. Fuhrman’s recipe for Banana Walnut Dressing, or for dessert, easy to make Simple Oatmeal Raisin Cookies.

Recipe: Banana Walnut Dressing
Recipe: Simple Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

If you don’t have organic raisins on hand, you could make some swaps. 

Organic dates can be substituted for an equal amount of raisins in many recipes on DrFuhrman.com – especially when the instructions call for ingredients to be blended. 

Shop now
Dr. Fuhrman’s salad dressings are made with organic raisins.
Organic dates are a key ingredient in our delicious Original and Chocolate Brownie flavors of Dr. Fuhrman’s Date Nut Pop’ems. 
 

 
References
  1. Raisins: No. 1 on the Dirty Dozen List? [https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/raisins.php]

  2. Munoz-Quezada MT, Lucero BA, Barr DB, Steenland K, Levy K, Ryan PB, Iglesias V, Alvarado S, Concha C, Rojas E, Vega C. Neurodevelopmental effects in children associated with exposure to organophosphate pesticides: a systematic review. Neurotoxicology 2013, 39:158-168.

  3. EFSA Panel on Plant Protection Products and their Residues (PPR). Scientific Opinion on the developmental neurotoxicity potential of acetamiprid and imidacloprid. EFSA Journal 2013, 11.

  4. Syed F, John PJ, Soni I. Neurodevelopmental consequences of gestational and lactational exposure to pyrethroids in rats. Environ Toxicol 2016, 31:1761-1770.

  5. Moser VC, Barone S, Jr., Smialowicz RJ, Harris MW, Davis BJ, Overstreet D, Mauney M, Chapin RE. The effects of perinatal tebuconazole exposure on adult neurological, immunological, and reproductive function in rats. Toxicol Sci 2001, 62:339-352.

  6. Winter CK, Katz JM. Dietary exposure to pesticide residues from commodities alleged to contain the highest contamination levels. J Toxicol 2011, 2011:589674.

Joel Fuhrman, M.D. is a board-certified family physician, six-time New York Times bestselling author and internationally recognized expert on nutrition and natural healing, who specializes in preventing and reversing disease through nutritional methods. Dr. Fuhrman coined the term “Nutritarian” to describe his longevity-promoting, nutrient dense, plant-rich eating style.
 
For over 25 years, Dr. Fuhrman has shown that it is possible to achieve sustainable weight loss and reverse heart disease, diabetes and many other illnesses using smart nutrition. In his medical practice, and through his books and PBS television specials, he continues to bring this life-saving message to hundreds of thousands of people around the world.

 

Comments (0):

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susan88

08/14/2020 03:02 PM

thank you we do buy organic raisins but this new information you are giving me

 

JAYJSELTER

08/14/2020 04:10 PM

So, am I safe with non GMO raisins?

sb10

08/14/2020 08:27 PM

This is sad news since we usually give out small raisin packets at Halloween in lieu of candy. Does anybody out there know of somewhere to buy organic raisins in small boxes? A one-pound Trader Joe bag will not cut it for this application.

gracegillis

08/16/2020 11:21 AM

So much of your information is hidden behind a wall of "membership fees". Please consider the value to the world of sharing more of your knowledge so that the poor may have access to information thru the internet. Thank you.  Kathi Grace, Certified Consultant: Holistic Health and retired high school biology teacher.