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80% of non-organic apples in US are contaminated with a potentially dangerous carcinogen banned in Europe

One of the most common expressions is that “an apple a day keeps doctor away”. However, the reality cannot be any further from the truth, if you are not looking for the organic version of this fruit.

According to a 2012 report by Environmental Working Group (EWG), non-organic American apples are banned by Europe since most conventional apples in US are filled with toxic chemical diphenylamine, also known as DPA. DPA prevents apples from ‘storage scald’ which is browning or blackening of apples’ skin when they are exposed to cold storage for a long period of time.


According to EWG, tests on US apples conducted by USDA shows that more than 80% of conventional apples sold in US contain the dangerous chemical. DPA banned by European countries remain as one of the main toxins in American apples and pears.

The EWG senior scientist Sonya Lunder says that “while it is not yet clear that DPA is risky to public health, European Commission officials asked questions that the chemicals’ makers could not answer. The EC officials banned outright any further use of DPA on the apples cultivated in the European Union until they are confident it is safe. Europe’s action should cause American policymakers to take a new look at this chemical.”

One of the main concerns of the European Commission official is presence of a potent carcinogen known as nitrosamines inside fruits treated with pesticide DPA:

According to EU regulators, nitrosamines could be created when DPA is mixed with a source of nitrogen (which exists in the environment) during storage or when the fruit is processed. In 2008, EU regulators pressed the manufacturers of DPA to provide test data on formation of nitrosamines or other harmful chemicals when DPA-treated fruits sat on the storage shelves for a long time or when DPA-treated fruits were processed into purees, juices or sauces.

The manufacturers of DPA found out three unknown chemicals on fruits that were treated with DPA, but apparently they could not determine whether or not these chemicals were nitrosamines when DPA was broken down.

In 2012, the European Food Safety Authority concluded that the manufacturers of DPA failed to prove the safety of the chemical, therefore the potent carcinogen known as nitrosamines could form when DPA-treated fruits were processed or sat in the storage for a long time.

In June 2012, the committee banned the use of DPA on European apples and pears. Few month ago, EU set an allowable level of DPA of 0.1 part per million on its imports. However, In US, the average concentration of DPA on US apples is almost four time as much (0.42 parts per million).


Americans eat 10 pounds per person of raw apples every year and long term exposure to even low levels of nitrosamines in raw apples, pears, pear baby foods, apple juices or applesauce could pose a serious threat to human health:

While EU bans the import of US apples, people with lower immune system, elderly and parents of young children in US remain unaware that toxic DPA is regulated as a pesticide in most US apples and pears:

According to USDA report, DPA exists in US apples as one of the most predominant pesticides in higher concentrations compared to any other pesticides. DPA is found in applesauce, apple juice, pear and pear baby foods. USDA has regulated DPA as pesticide, but the main function of DPA is to slow down the skin of apples from discoloration during long months of storage.

In US, EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has taken no action to respond to EU ban on DPA. According to EWG, when scientists in EPA Pesticide Office were tasked about the pesticide safety reviews, they told EWG that they were unaware that new European ban or import restrictions even existed.

“Americans, particularly parents of young children, deserve the same level of concern from our government,” says Lunder. “Apples, apple juice and applesauce are staples in the diets of millions of children, so if there are potential risks to kids from DPA, we need to know now.”

Recently, EWG president, Ken Cook sent a letter to the head of the pesticide office at EPA encouraging EPA to follow EU ban on this matter. “The American public deserves the same level of protection as Europeans from pesticide risks,” wrote Cook. “We urge EPA to halt the use of DPA on U.S. fruit until a rigorous analysis (re-registration) by EPA of the chemical can prove that it poses a reasonable certainty of no harm to consumers.”






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