Strawberries are contaminated with pesticides, poisonous gases -- even after it's picked and washed

Just because it's fruit, doesn't mean it's healthy.

Every year, over 3 billion pounds of strawberries are produced by the United States, constituting a nearly 3 billion dollar business. California is responsible for producing over 90% of the strawberry crop in America, while Florida grows the second most amount. While experts believe the production and consumption of strawberries will continue to grow each year, many are warning of its dangers.

Once again, strawberries have topped the "Dirty Dozen" list -- they are hailed as the fruit "most likely to be contaminated with pesticide residues even after they are picked, rinsed in the field and washed before eating", according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Other produce listed includes spinach, nectarines, apples and potatoes.

Related: The world's weirdest fruit

12 PHOTOS
World's Weirdest Exotic Fruits
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World's Weirdest Exotic Fruits

These exotic fruits look wonderfully strange, and they taste of adventure. Read on to discover the world's weirdest exotic fruit.

Image Credit: Flickr / Zeping Yang

Akebi

This brilliantly purple fruit thrives in northern Japan, in the Tohoku area, but only briefly, making an appearance for about two weeks in early autumn. It grows on a wild vine and, for many Japanese people, is a symbol of the changing seasons. When the fruit is ripe and ready to eat, it pops open on one end. The gooey pulp inside is slightly sweet, while the rind is slightly bitter and is usually used as a vegetable. Do as locals do, and slurp up the flesh along with the seeds.

Image Credit: Studio Eye / Corbis

Jaboticaba

Native to southeastern Brazil, this strange bowling ball–esque fruit grows right off the main tree trunk. The deep-purple fruits have a white pulp inside that can be eaten raw or used in jellies. “Jaboticaba was very fun to eat,” recalls Tyler Burton, who lived in Brazil for two years. “You gently bite into them and the juice squirts out into your mouth, and you spit the seed and skin out.”

Image Credit: iStockphoto

Cherimoya

What’s green and scaly all over? Cherimoya fruit, although the inside is white and creamy, with many dark brown seeds. It’s currently grown throughout South and Central America and South Asia (the name originally comes from the Quechua word chirimuya). Mark Twain called it the “most delicious fruit known to men,” and generations later, that reputation is holding up. Dan Clarke, who works for Real Peru Holidays, a company that specializes in vacations to Peru, says, “The usual English translation for it is ‘custard apple,’ which sounds tasty enough, but doesn’t come close to capturing the creamy sweetness.”

Image Credit: J.Garcia / PhotoCuisine / Corbis

Cupuaçu

Found in the tropical rainforests of Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, and northern Brazil, these Amazonian fruits are oblong and fuzzy. Their outer shells are very hard and thick, and one fruit generally weighs two to four pounds. The pulp inside smells like a mix of chocolate and pineapple—only logical once you know this fruit is related to cacao. In fact, its pulp is similar enough to cocoa butter that it’s sometimes used in cosmetics. Meanwhile, the juice has been said to taste like a pear, with a hint of banana. Like the superfruit acai, cupuaçu has so many great phytochemicals and nutrients that it is sometimes used in food supplements.

Image Credit: Gillian Gutenberg

Fingered Citron

Also known as Buddha’s hand, this fruit has long yellow growths that really do resemble fingers. It’s used, appropriately enough, for religious offerings in Buddhist temples, mainly in China and Japan. Fingered citron is also a chef’s favorite. At Portland’s Pazzo Ristorante, chef John Eisenhart makes marmalade from it in the winter. Pastry chef Megan Romano of Chocolate & Spice Bakery, in Las Vegas, slices it paper-thin and poaches it in simple syrup to use as a chip to garnish ice cream or sorbet. And Vera Dordick, a trained pastry chef and former culinary instructor, particularly likes infusing the fruit in vodka: “so much more fragrant and flavorful than regular lemons,” she says.

Image Credit: Flickr / Zeping Yang

Ackee

Related to the lychee and a native of tropical West Africa, ackee was imported to Jamaica in the 1700s and made a big impression; ackee and saltfish is Jamaica’s national dish. Ackee pods ripen on the tree before picking, and to cook the fruit, people remove the soft, spongy white-yellow flesh before boiling it. The oils contain many important nutrients like fatty acids, although the unripened parts of the fruit have been known to cause food poisoning. Canned ackee has been restricted in the U.S. at various times for safety reasons, but it currently has the FDA’s seal of approval.

Image Credit: Roderick Chen / First Light / Corbis

Achiote

This fruit is also known as urucu, its Tupi Indian name, and can be found in the tropical parts of the Americas as well as Southeast Asia. The fruit is red and spiny—brown after it hardens—and contains bright red seeds. Unlike the other fruit included in this list, achiote’s fruit is inedible, so we can’t speak to its flavor. Instead, its bright red seeds come in handy in annatto coloring, which you may have seen on packages for everything from lipstick to cheddar cheese. In addition to being used for food coloring, achiote seeds can also be used to create a flavor and scent, like a peppery nutmeg.

Image Credit: Flickr / Daniel Dantas Sardi

Jackfruit

A relative of the mulberry, jackfruit is native to South and Southeast Asia, and may have originated in the rainforests of India. Its most immediate and striking feature is its size. One fruit is at least as big as a watermelon, and it can reach 80 pounds. The outside of a jackfruit smells like a melon, and the inside has a sweet, tangy odor—smelling almost like gummy bears. The inside is divided into segments surrounding large seeds, and you can eat the orange flesh surrounding these pods. The fruit itself tastes sweet, similar to a melon or a tangy banana, and has an aftertaste similar to a lychee.

Image Credit: Hou Jiansen / Xinhua Press / Corbis

Rambutan

This fruit is native to Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka. It’s related to the lychee and called chom chom in Vietnam, which means “messy hair.” Although the outside of the fruit looks exotic and strange, with the fiery red hair spiking out in all directions, the inside of the fruit is very similar to a lychee. Inside the hard red shell is an opaque fruit surrounding a pit in the middle, with nearly the same texture and taste as a lychee, though a bit less sweet.

Image Credit: Junko Kubota / AmanaImages / Corbis

Horned Melon

This fruit is part of both the cucumber and the melon families. While native to Africa, the horned melon is now grown in California, Chile, Australia, and New Zealand and nicknamed blowfish in the southeastern U.S. The fruit immediately stands out for the horns on its orange exterior; the inside is equally strange—green, with white seeds. It tastes a lot like a cucumber—crossed with a zucchini—and while some people eat the seeds and the skin, it’s more common to eat just the pulp and spit out the seeds.

See More of the World’s Weirdest Exotic Fruits

Image Credit: Studio Eye / Corbis

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The takeaways from the EWG are quite apparent.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture found that strawberries contained nearly 8 pesticides per sample. That's more than any other sample of produce, which contained 2.3 pesticides per sample, in comparison. Scientists found that nearly 30% of strawberries had residues of more than 10 pesticides, with the "dirtiest" linked to 21 different pesticides.

If that doesn't deter you enough to eat organic strawberries, scientists found traces of poisonous gas on strawberries as well. These included mostly Carbendazim and Bifenthrin, which was found on 33% of the strawberry samples. These harmful chemicals have been associated with a variety of health issues, including cancer, developmental and reproductive damage, and neurological problems.

In light of this report, nutritionists are advising their clients to "shop smart".

"I believe that this is an important source of information," said Corinne Bush to CNN. Consequently, the EWG says that buyers should look for organic produce.

"Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is essential no matter how they're grown, but for the items with the heaviest pesticide loads, we urge shoppers to buy organic. If you can't buy organic, the Shopper's Guide will steer you to conventionally grown produce that is the lowest in pesticides," said EWG analyst Sonya Lunder.

You can find more information on the report here.

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