This surprising food could contain pesticides -- and it’s in your pantry right now

If you heed the advice of many scientists and doctors, you probably buy organic produce when you can (and vigorously wash your fruits and veggies when you can’t). But no matter how hard you scrub, one common food could be exposing you to harmful pesticides—and odds are, it’s sitting in your pantry right now. Neonicotinoid pesticides, also called insecticides, have been found in honey from every continent that has honeybees, according to new research.

In the study, published in the journal Science, researchers tested around 200 samples of honey from around the world. They found that about 75 percent of the samples contain significant levels of at least one of the five common neonicotinoids, Science Newsreported. Check out this comprehensive guide to the foods with the most pesticides.

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12 foods you should ALWAYS buy organic
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12 foods you should ALWAYS buy organic
12. Potatoes
11. Red peppers 
10. Tomatoes
9. Celery
8. Grapes
7. Cherries 
6. Pears
5. Peaches 
4. Apples 
3. Nectarines
2. Spinach
1. Strawberries
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Pesticide levels vary between regions, according to the researchers. In North America, 86 percent of samples contained pesticides. About 80 percent of samples from Asia, 79 percent in Europe, and 73 percent in Africa contained pesticides. Researchers found pesticides in 71 percent of samples from the Australian region, too. Meanwhile, only 57 percent of South American honey had pesticides.

“On the global scale, the contamination is really striking,” study coauthor Edward Mitchell, a soil biologist at the University of Neuchtel in Switzerland, told Science News.

Bees likely pick up the neonicotinoids and other pesticides as they pollinate crops, scientists say. When the bees return to their hive, the pesticides contaminate the honey. While the concentrations found in honey are below the maximum levels deemed safe for human consumption, pesticides could cause significant harm to bees. (By the way, the chemicals found in this common household item could be giving you cancer.)

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The Environmental Working Group has identified 12 fruits and vegetables you should be buying organic and 12 fruits and vegetables that are least likely to be contaminated with pesticide residues.

Peaches: Buy Organic

Image Credit: Stuart Minzey/ Getty Images

Apples: Buy Organic

Image Credit: Digital Vision/ Getty Images

Sweet Bell Peppers: Buy Organic

Image Credit: Steve Wisbauer/ Getty Images

Celery: Buy Organic

Image Credit: Ursula Alter/ Getty Images

Nectarines: Buy Organic

Image Credit: Rosemary Calvert/ Getty Images

Strawberries: Buy Organic

Image Credit: Lew Robertson/ Getty Images

Cherries: Buy Organic

Image Credit: Chris Stein/ Getty Images

Pears: Buy Organic

Image Credit: Sasha Bell/ Getty Images

Grapes: Buy Organic

Image Credit: Echo/ Getty Images

Spinach: Buy Organic

Image Credit: Rob MacDougall/ Getty Images

Lettuce: Buy Organic

Image Credit: Visuals Unlimited Inc./ Inga Spence/ Getty Images

Potatoes: Buy Organic

Image Credit: Adam Gault/ Getty Images

Papaya: Don't Buy Organic

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Broccoli: Don't Buy Organic

Image Credit: Mint Images/Tim Pannell/ Getty Images

Cabbage: Don't Buy Organic

Image Credit: Mint Images/ Tim Pannell/ Getty Images

Bananas: Don't Buy Organic

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Kiwi: Don't Buy Organic

Image Credit: Paul Frederiksen Jr./ Getty Images

Frozen Sweet Peas: Don't Buy Organic

Image Credit: Kroeger Gross/ Getty Images

Asparagus: Don't Buy Organic

Image Credit: Bill Deering/ Getty Images

Mango: Don't Buy Organic

Image Credit: Rosemary Calvert/ Getty Images

Pineapple: Don't Buy Organic

Image Credit: Rosemary Calvert/ Getty Images

Frozen Corn: Don't Buy Organic

Image Credit: Richard Clark/ Getty Images

Avocado: Don't Buy Organic

Image Credit: Rick Lew/ Getty Images

Onions: Don't Buy Organic

Image Credit: Phillip Hayson/ Getty Images

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“Neonicotinoids are not the only problem that bees face,” Dave Goulson, a biologist at the University of Sussex, who was not involved in the study, told PBS. “But certainly [the research suggests] very strongly that exposure to these pesticides is one of the factors causing bees to decline.”

Researchers hope to continue working to determine what we can do to protect the bees, as well as reduce our intake of harmful pesticides. In the meantime, brush up (and stock up!) on these little-known facts about organic foods.

[Source: Science News]

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