That wasn’t a headline from early media coverage from the release of the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists, but kale was in quite a few headlines — and not in a good way.
The EWG news release on kale set the tone right away:
The most surprising news from the USDA tests reveals that the popular health food kale is among the most contaminated fruits and vegetables. More than 92 percent of kale samples had two or more pesticide residues detected, and a single sample could contain up to 18 different residues. The most frequently detected pesticide, found on nearly 60 percent of kale samples, was Dacthal, or DCPA – classified by the Environmental Protection Agency since 1995 as a possible human carcinogen, and prohibited for use in Europe since 2009.
News outlets were drawn to the kale angle:
"It’s one of the trendiest greens on supermarket shelves and turns up in salads pasta dishes and even smoothies. But a new report from the Environmental Working Group finds the leafy green kale contains more pesticide residue than most other kinds of produce."
"Kale, that popular green of the health conscious, has joined the ignoble list of 12 fruits and vegetables with the most pesticide residues, according to the Environmental Working Group. The last time kale was on the list was in 2009 when it was ranked eighth. Strawberries and spinach took the top two spots again this year, respectively, followed by kale."
"You may want to put the green juice down for this one.
Kale ranked as a third-worst fruit or vegetable behind strawberries and spinach when it comes to pesticide contamination, according to the Environmental Working Group’s annual “Dirty Dozen” report. Over 92% of kale samples were found to have two or more pesticide residues — and a single piece of kale could have up to 18 pesticides on or in it."
"Each year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) publishes its Dirty Dozen list, which ranks the 12 pieces of produce that contain the highest amounts of pesticide residues.
This year, one of the dirtiest fruits and vegetables turns out to be kale, occupying the third spot on the EWG’s list of most contaminated."
"If you’re trying to eat healthy but save money, a good rule of thumb has been to splurge only on organic produce that notoriously contains large amounts of pesticides. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) makes this easier by releasing a list every year called the “Dirty Dozen,” which names the 12 pieces of produce that contain the most pesticides. Stick to EWG’s “Clean 15” list for everything that’s OK to buy nonorganic.
The Dirty Dozen list for 2019 contains many of the same items as in 2018, with one notable exception: kale. The dark, leafy superfood is a staple for healthy eaters, finding its way into smoothies, salads, and sides. In 2018, it didn’t even make the list. But in 2019, it was listed as the number three dirtiest piece of produce."
TK: Kale took it on the chin this year. However, we should remember that people aren’t exactly flocking to supermarkets in droves for conventional kale now. Per capita consumption of all fresh kale was just 0.6 pounds in 2015, according to the USDA.
Kale is no more dangerous to eat today than it was yesterday, but don’t tell that to list-following consumers now. Superfood no longer, it is now superbad, thanks to the EWG.
The addition of "trendy" kale was the perfect news hook to draw attention to the Dirty Dozen list. After all, who cares if the list is the same as last year?
What will be the fallout? Grocers may feature more organic kale in response to this year’s inclusion of the vegetable as one of the “dirtiest” produce commodities.
Even before the negative coverage from the 2019 Dirty Dozen list, The Packer’s 2019 Fresh Trends research showed that kale topped the list of most popular periodic organic purchases. The survey found 41% of consumers said they bought organic kale at least some of the time in the previous year, beating avocados (37%), apples (35%) and bananas (35%).
The fickle finger of fate, controlled by the EWG hype machine, pointed to kale in 2019. It could be worse, though not for marketers of conventional kale.