More and more consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about the quality of the produce in their shopping carts. While organic foods are optimal for avoiding pesticides and toxins, there are other options available for those who want to eat healthy but might not have the budget or availability to do so. According to analyses conducted by the non-profit advocacy agency, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), washing produce isn’t enough to remove pesticides. In fact 67% of the produce analyzed was found to still have pesticide contaminants after washing. Seeing as fruits and vegetables are an important part of everyone’s diet the EWG came out with two lists, “The Dirty Dozen” and ” The Clean Fifteen,” (both featured below) based on a 28,000 fruit/vegetable sample size study of 48 fruits and vegetables, geared towards helping shoppers make educated choices when it comes to buying fruits and vegetables.
The Dirty Dozen consists of twelve fruits and vegetable (plus two additional vegetables that did not meet the dirty dozen criteria but were found to be contaminated with pesticides known to be extremely toxic to the nervous system) found to have high levels of pesticide exposure. Pesticides can affect many different body systems, from our nervous systems, to our endocrine system and even our skin and eyes. Pesticides can also have carcinogenic effects. Given the potential developmental and carcinogenic effects of pesticides it is important for pregnant women and children to avoid foods high in pesticides and other contaminants.
Even though the EPA has eliminated many harmful pesticides some of these pesticides can still be found in our produce today; such as organochlorine pesticides which were phased out of agriculture in the 1970s and 1980s yet can still be found in the soils of some farm fields today.
Knowing this, the EWG created the Clean Fifteen to highlight fifteen fruits and vegetables with the lowest pesticide residue. None of the fruits or vegetables on the Clean Fifteen list tested positive for more than 4 pesticides at a time; whereas a single grape from the Dirty Dozen list tested positive for 15 different pesticides and 99% of the apples tested contained at least one pesticide.
For those who want to live green for less, following the EWG’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen recommendations can help lower your exposure to pesticides just as can eating organic can. Just don’t forget to wash your produce as well as peeling off the skin whenever possible!
The Dirty Dozen:
3. Cherry Tomatoes
6. Hot Peppers
12. Bell Peppers
13. Kale/Collard Green
14. Summer Squash
The Clean Fifteen:
14. Sweet Peas – frozen
15. Sweet Potatoes