When it comes to getting your money’s worth of pesticides, Jessica and I think that there are few things more useful than the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG’s) Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. The latest and greatest has just been released, and we want to review these lists with you with the hope that we can all commit them to memory so that when we are on a quick grocery run and a limited budget we’ll know when it’s important to choose the organic version. Come and cook with us!
But first, let’s be clear about one thing: even if you cannot afford to buy organic, the health benefits derived from a diet rich in fruits and vegetables still outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure. So continue to eat the rainbow! As for the study itself, the EWG is fully transparent on the methodology used to identify the list of the Dirty Dozen Plus and Clean Fifteen, and you can read about it (and more) on their website.
Let’s move to the interesting part. EWG tested a total of 28,000 samples of 48 of the most popular fruits and vegetables and ranked them according to pesticide load. For the second year, it added a Plus category to the Dirty Dozen that includes two crops (domestically-grown summer squash and leafy greens) that did not meet the Dirty Dozen criteria but were still contaminated with pesticides that are highly toxic to the nervous system. Who would want that? Many on the Dirty Dozen Plus list are fruits or vegetables that are consumed in large amounts . . . and pesticides are probably used to ensure a steady, reliable crop year after year.
|Dirty Dozen Plus||Clean Fifteen|
|1. Apples||1. Asparagus|
|2. Celery||2. Avocados|
|3. Cherry Tomatoes||3. Cabbage|
|4. Cucumbers||4. Cantaloupe|
|5. Grapes||5. Sweet Corn|
|6. Hot Peppers||6. Eggplant|
|7. Nectarines – imported||7. Grapefruit|
|8. Peaches||8. Kiwi|
|9. Potatoes||9. Mangos|
|10. Spinach||10. Mushrooms|
|11. Strawberries||11. Onions|
|12. Sweet Bell Peppers||12. Papayas|
|13. Kale / Collard Greens||13. Pineapples|
|14. Summer Squash||14. Sweet Peas|
|15. Sweet Potatoes|
It is worth noting that this list does not test for GMO in fruits and vegetables. In general, the biggest GMO offenders in the grocery produce section are Hawaiian papaya, zucchini and some sweet corn. Most of the GMO corn is not included in this list as it isn’t sold as a fresh vegetable but rather fed to animals. Same for soy which turns into select ingredients used to make processed food. Until labeling laws are in place (don’t I sound hopeful?), your best bet is to buy the USDA organic version of the produce.
OK, is your head spinning yet? EWG helps protect consumers from pesticides. You can support them and, in return for your $10 donation, you will be sent a handy Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce bag tag that you can clip on to your shopping bag to have your best and worst lists at your fingertips when you are on your way through the store. And then go home and turn all this fresh and healthy produce into real food! Come and cook with us!