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EWG's 2012 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce™

Image Courtesy of sxc.hu and StefanG81

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit research organization, has just released their annual “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” lists. Every year, they test various fruits and vegetables to determine which have the highest (and lowest) pesticide and chemical residues. This year, they tested 45 different fruits and veggies. You can see their full list here.

I truly appreciate the job that the EWG does to help bring awareness to this issue. This is a great quote from their recent press release:

“The explosive growth in market share for organic produce in recent years testifies to a simple fact that pesticide companies and the farmers who use their products just can’t seem to grasp: people don’t like to eat food contaminated by pesticides,” said EWG president Ken Cook. “Our shopper’s guide to pesticides in produce gives consumers easy, affordable ways to eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables while avoiding most of the bug killers, fungicides and other chemicals in produce and other foods.”

“This year’s guide will also give new parents pause,” Cook added. “Government scientists have found disturbing concentrations of pesticides in some baby foods. And the U.S. Department of Agriculture has found weed killers widespread in finished tap water. Environmentalists have had important successes in forcing pesticides that presented unacceptably high dietary risks off the market. The latest USDA tests show we have much more work to do.”  

I found their notable findings this year to be quite interesting (they also shared this on their press release). It really shows just how contaminated our food really is!

Notable findings:

  • Some 98 percent of conventional apples have detectable levels of pesticides.
  • Domestic blueberries tested positive for 42 different pesticide residues.
  • Seventy-eight different pesticides were found on lettuce samples. 
  • Every single nectarine USDA tested had measurable pesticide residues.
  • As a category, grapes have more types of pesticides than any other fruit, with 64 different chemicals.
  • Thirteen different pesticides were measured on a single sample each of celery and strawberries.

2012 Dirt Dozen (plus 2 more)

On the 2012 Dirty Dozen side, not a lot has changed since last year’s report. The EWG did add two additional veggies onto the list, due to specific contamination — kale, which was on last year’s list and green beans, which is a new one. Always strive to buy the “Dirty Dozen” produce organically if at all possible. Or, buy local from farmers you know and trust. Ask your local farmers if they spray their crops. Most of the time, even if they’re not certified organic, they follow organic standards. Getting certified can be so expensive that a lot of the “little guys” just can’t afford it.

1. Apples

2. Celery

3. Sweet Bell Peppers

4. Peaches

5. Strawberries

6 Nectarines (imported)

7. Grapes

8. Spinach

9. Lettuce

10. Cucumbers

11. Blueberries (domestic)

12. Potatoes

+ Green Beans (commonly contaminated with highly toxic organophosphate insecticides)

+ Kale/Greens (commonly contaminated with highly toxic organophosphate insecticides)

2012 Clean 15

For your Clean 15, again, not much has changed. These are the items that you can buy commercially without having to worry about a lot of pesticide residue. While it is best to buy organic (or local) whenever possible, there are times when you might not have a choice and these are the safest commercial veggies (in regards to pesticide and chemical residues).

1. Onions

2. Sweet Corn (I’d still buy organic to avoid GMOs)

3. Pineapples

4. Avocado

5. Cabbage

6 Sweet Peas

7. Asparagus

8. Mangoes

9. Eggplant

10. Kiwi

11. Cantaloupe (domestic)

12. Sweet Potatoes

13. Grapefruit

14. Watermelon

15. Mushrooms

You can download their handy PDF guide here and keep it in your purse or car for easy reference.

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