Tuesday, May 27, 2014

How to eat well and reduce your exposure to pesticides

Environmental Working Group clean fifteen
Environmental Working Group dirty dozen
An apple a day…just might increase your pesticide exposure, according to this year’s Dirty Dozen/Clean Fifteen analysis by the U.S.-based environmental research group, Environmental Working Group (EWG).
The organization does an annual analysis of pesticide residue on produce based on data gathered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration. EWG uses this data to compile of list of the 12 fruits and vegetable which carry the highest pesticide load when they reach your plate.
It’s not all doom and gloom - EWG also publishes a list of the 15 fruits and vegetables that contain the least amount of pesticide residue.
The goal isn’t to scare you off of eating lots of fruits and vegetables. EWG sees it more as filling a labeling gap of sorts – just letting consumers know what’s in, or on, our food so we can take steps to reduce our overall exposure to pesticides.

And regardless of the various ratings given to fruits and vegetables, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweighs any of the risks posed by consuming pesticide residue.

Almost all of our produce is imported and most comes from the U.S. so this data is relevant to what lands on our dinner plate here in Canada.   

About 65 percent of the produce sampled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture tested positive for pesticide residue. Ninety-nine percent of apples tested positive for a least one pesticide. The average potato had more pesticides (by weight) than any other food and some single samples of strawberries, celery and cherry tomatoes showed 13 different pesticides each. A single grape sample contained 15 pesticides.  

Part of the worry is that we’re consuming a bit of a cocktail of pesticides. Individual pesticides may be tested for their safety but different fruits and vegetables can be sprayed with half a dozen or more kinds of pesticides and no one knows how these mixtures affect people.

As always children are most at risk since their developing bodies are more susceptible to toxins.

Fortunately there are lots of fruits and vegetable that tested low for pesticide exposure. Not a single fruit sample from the Clean Fifteen tested positive for more than 4 types of pesticides and just 5.5 percent of all Clean Fifteen samples had two or more pesticides.

Consider these lists as guidelines, suggestions for what fruits and vegetables to consumer more of and which you might want to eat less often or buy organic.  

Clean Fifteen: Avocado, Sweet corn, Pineapple, Cabbage, Frozen peas, Onions, Asparagus, Mangoes, Papaya, Kiwi, Eggplant, Grapefruit, Cantaloupe, Cauliflower, Sweet potato.

Dirty Dozen: Apples, Strawberries, Grapes, Celery, Peaches, Spinach, Bell Peppers, Nectarines, Cucumbers, Cherry Tomatoes, Potatoes, Peas (imported). Kale and collard greens and hot peppers receive an honorable mention for containing residue of pesticides that are known neurotoxins. It’s not only fresh forms of this produce that tested positive for pesticide residue, apple juice and baby food tested positive for residue as well.

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