Are You Eating Poisoned Apples?

By Rachel Sarnoff

I grew up on “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” My most vivid grade-school history lesson centered around Johnny Appleseed. I truly believe that something can be “as American as apple pie.”

But a recent statistic made me worry that American apples aren’t safe, anymore. A new report from the Environmental Working Group found that 80% of apples are coated with a pesticide that’s banned in Europe because it could be carcinogenic. 

European regulators are worried too—so worried about the connection between diphenylamine and nitrosamines, a family of potent cancer-causing chemicals, that they banned the use of DPA on apples and pears in June 2012That’s why I started a petition to ask the EPA to ban DPA on American apples.

Why should Americans eat apples coated with potentially carcinogenic chemicals, when Europe takes steps to make sure their apples are safe?

In the United States, farmers treat conventionally-grown apples with the EU-banned pesticide—commonly known as DPA—after the harvest to prevent blackening or browning of fruit skin during cold storage.

Tests of raw apples conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2010 found DPA on 80% of apples tested, more often and at greater concentrations than other pesticide residues. They also found it in apple juice and applesauce.

The average concentration of DPA on U.S. apples is about .42 parts per million. In March of this year, the EU reduced the allowable level of DPA on imports to .1 part per million, effectively banning the export of American apples to Europe.

Considering Americans eat nearly 10 pounds per person of fresh apples every year, you would think that the Environmental Protection Agency would be concerned, right? Apparently, not yet.

According to Reuters, under the federal Food Quality Protection Act, the EPA is supposed to conduct a scientific assessment of pesticides every 15 years—but it hasn’t assessed DPA since the late 1990s.

And because of concerns about pesticides like DPA, apples have been at the top of the EWG’s Dirty Dozen list in the Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce since it was first published more than a decade ago.

Facts like this make me mad.

Why should Americans eat apples coated with potentially carcinogenic chemicals, while Europe takes steps to make sure their apples are safe?

It just isn’t fair. And it isn’t right. But there’s something we can do about it:

1. Buy USDA Certified Organic apples, since they won’t be treated with DPA or other pesticides.

2. Share this information on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram—wherever you can! Let’s get people talking about healthier apples!

And soon there will be one less danger to worry about, when it comes to apples. Our fruit will be as wholesomely American as apple pie. Just like the Europeans’.

Update: I closed the petition and sent the signatures to the EPA. You can read all about it here!


Rachel SarnoffAbout The Author

Better known as “Mommy Greenest,” Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff is a journalist, consultant, sustainability advocate and former CEO of Healthy Child Healthy World who was Editor in Chief of Children magazine—before she had three of her own. Rachel was featured in Los Angeles and Lucky magazines and appeared on “The Today Show” and “CNN Headline News,” among others, to share advice about healthier living with less judgement. The author of The Big List of Things That Suck and partner at Give + Take swap shop in Los Angeles, Rachel also publishes, where “you shouldn’t have to be a scientist to raise healthy kids.” Follow her and at





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