It’s that time of year again for the updated Shopper’s Guide To Pesticides by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
For those who don’t know, the guide ranks 48 most commonly eaten fruits and veggies in order of their pesticide-residue contamination based on an analysis of 32,000 samples tested by U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration. The “Dirty Dozen” are the twelve most contaminated fruits and veggies. The “Clean 15” are the least contaminated. Now there is also a Dirty Dozen Plus.
Here’s a run-down on the just published 2014 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides.
For the fourth year in a row, Apples have the dubious honor of being at the top of the Dirty Dozen followed by: Strawberries, Grapes, Celery, Peaches, Spinach, Sweet Bell Peppers, Nectarines – Imported, Cucumbers, Cherry Tomatoes, Snap Peas – Imported and Potatoes.
Now the EWG has a Dirty Dozen Plus category. They state that leafy greens and hot peppers are of special concern for public health because residue tests conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture have found these foods laced with particularly toxic pesticides. So while leafy greens did not qualify for EWG’s Dirty Dozen list this year, the extraordinary toxicity of the pesticides detected on them were cause for EWG to highlight them separately.
Same with hot peppers. USDA tests of 739 samples of hot peppers in 2010 and 2011 (USDA 2010, 2011) found residues of three highly toxic insecticides on a portion of sampled peppers at concentrations high enough to cause concern. These insecticides are banned on some common crops but still allowed on hot peppers.
EWG recommends that people who frequently eat leafy greens and hot peppers buy organic varieties. If you cannot find or afford organic types, they suggest cooking them, because pesticides levels typically diminish when food is cooked.
For a bit of positive news, Avocados were the cleanest, with only 1 percent of samples showing any detectable pesticides. Other items on the list include corn, pineapples, cabbage, frozen sweet peas, onions, asparagus, mangoes, papayas, kiwi, eggplant, grapefruit, cantaloupe, cauliflower and sweet potatoes.
Other notable findings:
- Every sample of imported nectarines tested and 99 percent of apple samples tested positive for at least one pesticide residue.
- The average potato had more pesticides by weight than any other food.
- A single grape tested positive for 15 pesticides. Single samples of celery, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas and strawberries tested positive for 13 different pesticides apiece.
- Some 89 percent of pineapples, 82 percent of kiwi, 80 percent of papayas, 88 percent of mango and 61 percent of cantaloupe had no residues.
I know, organic can be expensive. No one is perfect or with an unlimited grocery budget, but do the best you can and stay informed. Know your food.