Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Seasonal food on the "Dirty Dozen" list

My family is crazy about local berries, so much so that by the end of blueberry season more than half of our freezer space is filled with dozens of bags of strawberries, raspberries and a good 60 pounds of blueberries. We enjoy local berries all year long in smoothies, muffins and galettes.

The challenge with local berries is that it’s nearly impossible to find organic. Farmer Brown’s in Bloomfield has a strawberry and a small raspberry u-pick and at local markets you can often find a few boxes of berries that haven’t been sprayed. Bates U-pick on Belleisle Bay sprays their strawberry plants but they don’t spray once the fruit has started to form so the pesticide residue would be lower than conventionally grown strawberries where the fruit is sprayed for pests and fungus. Organic blueberries are scarce.

Since we go through so many berries we usually buy what we can organic, or at least not sprayed and then top up with conventionally grown berries.

This season we’ll put up fewer blueberries, in favour of more raspberries and strawberries. We love blueberries but have found that domestic blueberries are now in the “Dirty Dozen”, a list of the 12 fruits and vegetables that have the highest pesticide residue. (Strawberries are on the list as well but more naturally grown strawberries are accessible locally).

The “Dirty Dozen” list is compiled annually by Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit organization in the US that researches and reports on environmental issues. For this report EWG analyzes pesticide residue testing data from the US Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration and then ranks the produce accordingly.

To help consumers make sense of the data, EWG has categorized the produce by worst and best. The Dirty Dozen are the 12 fruits and vegetables with the highest pesticide residue; the Clean 15 are those fruits and vegetables with the lowest pesticide residue.

Here’s the “Dirty Dozen”, beginning with the worst: apples, celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, nectarines – imported, grapes – imported, sweet bell peppers, potatoes, blueberries – domestic, lettuce, kale/collard greens.

On the bright side, there is a great selection of produce with low pesticide residue. The “Clean 15”, beginning with the lowest in pesticide residue, are: onions, sweet corn, pineapples, avocado, asparagus, sweet peas, mangoes, eggplant, cantaloupe – domestic, kiwi, cabbage, watermelon, sweet potatoes, grapefruit, mushrooms.

The idea is to eat organic (or naturally grown) versions of the dirty dozen and reduce your consumption of this produce when organic isn’t available (like we’ll do with blueberries). Environmental Working Group points out that the health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure so you find the balance that works for your family.

To search organic producers in the province visit the Atlantic Canadian Organic Regional Network at http://www.acornorganic.org/. And at u-picks and farmer’s markets ask growers if they use natural growing practices. You’ll find that many don’t spray.



I think this list is pretty scary to read! I eat just about anything that is on the red side, which means I eat vegetables and fruit with most pesticides. It makes me wonder how much I have to change my eating pattern. Where I live there is almost no organic food to be found. The alternative would be to grow it myself.

Now, fortunately, it is season for apples and our (we are renting an apartement in an old house, so we may use the garden,and eat from it too) garden is full of them. But the strawberries that I love, sad perhaps to leave them. But mostly sad that the farmers can not avoid using pesticides that harm our health and our environment!! Thank you for letting us being informed about what is going on.

Warm greeting, Aina

KC said...

I really appreciate this blog because I wold never make the time to do the research myself.

I am wondering about one point: the lack of organic blueberries. I was under the impression that Oxford Blueberries were organic. Oxford, NS boasts about being the blueberry capital of the world. Do I have that wrong?