Processed foods might not be the best option at the grocery store, but you can frequently find some of them in Americans' kitchens. Over the years, manufacturers have attempted to reduce the amount of pesticides in their food, but some have been doing a better job than others.
Nonprofit organization As You Sow released a roundup of 17 manufacturers of popular pantry products like Kraft Mac & Cheese, Green Giant vegetables, and Lunchables portable lunches and graded each of them on the work they've done to cut down on pesticide use. In the end, all 17 manufacturers—including well-known household names like General Mills, PepsiCo, Nestlé, and Kraft Heinz—earned a C grade or lower. Of those, 10 received an F.
To come up with the rankings, As You Sow compiled data from publicly available sources like the companies' published reports, press statements, and other information available online. They then rated each company on 27 elements of risk reduction, including transparency to the public about pesticide use, identifying the highest risk chemicals and requiring raw food suppliers to perform pesticide risk assessments.
General Mills, the producer of brands like Annie's, Cheerios, and Green Giant earned the top spot with a C rating. It also earned the second-highest score for its pesticide risk reduction strategy, meaning it's actively putting effort into reducing pesticide use in its products.
From there, it only gets worse. PepsiCo, the company behind products like Gatorade and Cheetos, earned a C-. Campbell Soup Co. (Goldfish, V8) earned a D. Meanwhile, Nestlé (Gerber, DiGiorno, Hot Pockets) got a D-. Mondelez International (Oreo, Chips Ahoy, Ritz), Danone (Silk, Activia, International Delight), Kraft Heinz (Lunchables, Kool-Aid), Kellanova (Cheez-It, Pringles, Pop Tarts), Mars (Kind, Dove), and the J.M. Smucker Co. (Jif, Knott's, Uncrustables) all earned F's. The average grade of the overall report as a result dropped to an F this year from a D in 2021.
If you're looking to be as pesticide-free as possible, it might be worth looking into sourcing your food elsewhere.