By now, we’re all used to seeing it. The annual list of the “Dirty Dozen” has its impact. Conscientious shoppers memorize the list and switch to buying those items from the organic section to minimize their exposure to pesticide contamination. The flipside of the Dirty Dozen is a little less well known. The “Clean 15” are those fruits and veggies that carry a lower risk of pesticide load, whether organic or not.Still, that’s only 25 different fruits and vegetables. What about all the other wonderful, healthy foods populating the produce section? The Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce takes a look at 45 different fruits and vegetables, examining the pesticide load of each and drafting consumer guidelines for best choices. Produced by Environmental Working Group (EWG) and now in its eighth edition, the guide offers consumers solid information based on annual pesticide residue tests conducted by the USDA and the FDA. Samples are first washed or peeled prior to testing, so the results reflect the amounts of the crop chemicals likely present when the food is eaten.
While pesticide residue is a concern, the USDA, FDA and the EWG are all very clear, the health benefits of eating fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of potential exposure to pesticides. They encourage shoppers to use the guide to determine which produce should be bought organic.
Why should we worry about pesticides? They’re toxic by design. They are created expressly to kill living organisms and many pose health dangers to people. The wide-spread use of pesticides is also harmful to the environment, getting into the air, and polluting the water. They’re also indiscriminate, harming populations of beneficial bugs as well as the bad ones. Problems in the honey bee population have been linked, in part, to widespread pesticide use.
Though it would be ideal if every shopper could buy organic, pesticide-free produce, that’s just not the reality. For some, organic foods are not widely available in their area, or they are incredibly expensive. And if an organic food has traveled hundreds of miles to get to your market, it may be better to choose the non-organic, but locally-grown produce instead.
The Shopper’s Guide is available online, as a PDF or even as an app for your smartphone.
The Dirty Dozen
- Sweet bell peppers
- Nectarines, imported
- Blueberries, domestic
The Clean 15
- Sweet corn
- Sweet peas
- Cantaloupe, domestic
- Sweet potatoes