Thursday, May 30, 2013

How to avoide pesticides on produce - the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15

EWG's annual shopper's guide to pesticides

We’re lucky that a greater variety of organic produce is getting easier to find in our local stores and markets. But in a way it makes our grocery shopping harder. Having more choice creates a bit of a dilemma: should we buy only organic produce – a more expensive option – or pick and choose what we do and don’t buy organic?

Nobody wants to hem and haw over whether to buy the organic kiwi, which is why I’m hooked on Environmental Working Group’s annual Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides. The guide lists the produce that has the highest pesticide load when it reaches your table along with the produce with the lowest pesticide load.
To make their research easy to use the have created the Dirty Dozen (produce with the highest pesticide load) and the Clean 15 (produce with the lowest pesticide load).

The report is based on an analysis of data gathered by the US Department of Agriculture and covers the 48 most commonly consumed fruits and vegetables. The produce was analyzed according to how it is usually consumed. Bananas are peeled, apples are washed…

Before I list The Dirty Dozen I’ll add a caveat that the most important thing is to eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. If you can manage to swap out the produce that’s highest in pesticide residue for its organic counterpart, that’s a bonus.

If organic isn’t available or just isn’t doable for your family consider eating foods on the Dirty Dozen list less often and spend more of your grocery budget on produce listed on the Clean 15.

Clean Fifteen (TM): asparagus, avocado, cabbage, cantaloupe, corn, eggplant, grapefruit, kiwi, mango, mushrooms, onions, papaya, pineapple, sweet peas, sweet potato. This is produce that either requires fewer pesticides to grow or the pesticides used are the least toxic.

Dirty Dozen (Plus 2) TM: apples, celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, hot peppers, nectarines (imported), peaches, potatoes, spinach, strawberries, bell peppers, kale/collard greens, summer squash.

Reducing the amount of pesticides we ingest is worth considering. Different pesticides have been linked to numerous health problems, from nervous system toxicity to cancer, skin and eye irritation and hormone disruption, and a single fruit or vegetable can be contaminated with several pesticides. As with all toxins, children are more at risk when exposed.

In this year’s analysis, some single samples of bell peppers, grapes, celery and cherry tomatoes tested positive for more than a dozen different pesticides. The average potato had the highest total weight of pesticides than any other produce. As well, some imported produce tested positive for pesticides that are banned in the U.S.

On a happy note, no single fruit sample from the Clean 15 tested positive for more than four different pesticides.

Scrubbing your produce well will help to remove some surface pesticides and peeling fruit like apples can help reduce the amount of pesticides that you ingest.

To view the full list and ranking of all 48 fruits and vegetables visit


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