We all try to shop smart and make healthy decisions for our families. That’s even more important if you have growing children. One of the most important things is reducing exposure to pesticides. To do that, use the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list. Updated every year since 2004, they released the list early this year, so hunt no further. Here is the information you need.
The Shopper Guide to Pesticides in Produce
“Nearly two-thirds of the 3,015 produce samples tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 2013 contained pesticide residues – a surprising finding in the face of soaring consumer demand for food without agricultural chemicals” reports the EWG.
Conducting those tests, the USDA found a total of 165 different pesticides on samples. That’s pretty crazy, considering that conventional growers seem to be ignoring a huge market trend – the consumer demand for less pesticides in produce.
The tests were preformed by USDA employees who washed or peeled produce as a consumer might. Unwashed or unpeeled foods would likely have an even higher level of pesticides.
Take a few minutes and read the EWG’s Executive Summary for 2015. You can link to it here.
How We Can Avoid Pesticides and Save Money
The short answer is buy organic. Buying organic means ingesting fewer synthetic pesticides.
If you think buying organic doesn’t fit in your budget, it can. That is where these lists come in. To save money, focus on purchasing organic produce from the Dirty Dozen list and buy conventionally grown produce from the Clean Fifteen list.
The bottom line is we all need to increase our consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, so whether organic or conventional, buy what works for you and your family.
Another tip – Focus on low sugar fruit like berries and low starch vegetables like green vegetables and leafy greens.
What Does Organic Mean?
Organic is a designation defined by the USDA to certify that food with the USDA certified organic label was produced without synthetic chemicals, fertilizers, genetic engineering, genetic modification, radiation or sewage sludge.
Another important point. While the debate over whether organic foods are better for you rages, the LA Times published an article concluding that organic foods are more nutritious according to a review of 343 studies. You can read the article here.
Apples Top the List Once Again
Apples once again top the Dirty Dozen list. There is also “plus” list that takes the top offenders number to 16 for 2015. For the full list read here. The lower the number, the more pesticide residue was found, as analyzed by the EWG testing data from the U.S.Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The Dirty Dozen
The following list has the highest levels of pesticide residue. These are the produce items you should buy organic. If I can’t get organic on this list, I pass and make another choice.
- Sweet bell peppers
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Snap peas (imported)
- Hot peppers
- Blueberries – domestic
- Kale and Collard greens
The Clean Fifteen
The following list has the lowest levels of pesticide residue. If you can’t find organic due to availability or can’t afford to buy all organic, these produce items are safe to buy conventionally grown. I’ve made a few notes about GMO or GE (Genetically Modified or Genetically Engineered foods).
- Avocados (thank heavens)
- Sweet corn (although likely GMO if not organic, so still buy organic corn)
- Frozen sweet peas
- Papayas (if they are Hawaiian, the are GMO, so buy organic)
- Sweet potatoes
More Information, FAQ’s and Children
For more information, take the time to read through the EWG website. Here is page to Frequently Asked Questions About Produce and Pesticide. Scroll towards the bottom for more information on risks to children.