by Marion Nestle
Aug 19 2007

More Pesticides in Dried Fruit?

It’s a slow news Sunday, so I’ll just answer a couple of questions, both of them using USDA’s food composition data. Here’s a question from a reporter: “There seems to be consensus from the sources I’ve so far read that dried fruit contains higher levels of pesticides than fresh. What I can’t figure out is if that is only because typically one eats more dried fruit in a sitting (6-8 dried apricots as opposed to 1-2 fresh, for example) and that when you dry fruit there’s less volume but the same amount of pesticide, or if more pesticides are used on dried fruit for some reason.”

Answer, of sorts: This is a concentration issue. There can’t be more pesticides on dried fruit than there were on the fresh; there is just less water so the amount per weight appears greater. The same is true of nutrients. Some will be more concentrated (calories!). Others will be lower because of losses during processing (vitamin C, for example). For nutrient composition, USDA data are easy to use. Unfortunately, no such thing exists for pesticides.

  • elfling

    I have a related question: in California, we now have warning labels on the shelves for balsamic and red wine vinegars for lead content. The industry assures me that the lead levels, if I eat only a teaspoon, are below the level at which lead is a carcinogen. Since I’m not worried about its carcinogenic properties, and I might use a tablespoon a day in a salad, I didn’t find that reassuring.

    A lot of California grapes are grown close to highways, and as such, there’s residual lead in the soil from decades of leaded fuel. Do you have any sense about whether the lead is coming from the grapes being concentrated or if it’s coming from the barrels that they’re using to age the vinegar? They’re implying that it’s from the grapes, but then I wonder why white wine vinegars (or cider vinegar, or any other vinegar) aren’t equally implicated.