12 Fruits and Vegetables Loaded with Pesticides

danger pesticidesPhoto: Jerry Burke
Keep out – We’re putting poison on your food

Unless you’ve been living in a cave or perhaps Cuba, you’ve probably heard that buying organic produce is better. The most important reason to buy organic is to avoid exposure to the toxic chemical pesticides and fertilizers used to grow commercial produce these days.

In case you’re wondering, pesticides have been linked to some serious health problems like cancer, birth defects, Parkinson’s, asthma, autism, ADHD and more.

 

A noticeable benefit to eating organic produce is that it often tastes better, even though it may not look as pretty. Some studies have shown that it can also have higher nutrient content.

Since 1990, the US Department of Agriculture has designated an Organic Certification to food grown without synthetic or toxic chemicals or fertilizers, genetic engineering, radiation, or sewage fertilizer.

Note that processed food (like organic macaroni) is only required to have over 50% organic ingredients to carry the certified organic label, which is a bit misleading.

It costs farmers more money to grow organically. The crops take longer to grow and are smaller. Basically, farmers produce less crops for the same amount of effort, which is why it costs more in a grocery store. You’re paying for quality, not quantity. Having said that, it’s always cheaper to buy directly from local farmers at a farmers market. Bet you don’t picture farmers like this – he’s using Lasso by Monsanto

pesticide suitPhoto: unknown

Every year, the Environmental Working Group publishes a report of the most pesticide contaminated produce. According to their 2010 report, you can lower your pesticide exposure by nearly 80% by simply avoiding the top 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables. These rankings are based on the pesticide levels reported by the FDA and USDA Pesticide Testing Program. The metrics used to compile their list are here.

Generally, produce with thin skin (like celery) is more apt to absorb pesticides than produce with thicker skin (like an avocado). Note that all produce was washed before it was tested.  Here’s the list:

THE DIRTY DOZEN

Produce you really need to buy organic

(Listed in order of worst to least, but they’re all bad)

Celery
Peaches
Strawberries
Apples
Blueberries
Nectarines
Bell Peppers
Spinach
Kale/Collard Greens
Cherries
Potatoes
Grapes (Imported)

THE CLEAN FIFTEEN

Relatively clean produce that isn’t critical to buy organic

Onions
Avocado
Sweet Corn (clean but not very healthy, skip it)
Pineapple
Mango
Sweet Peas
Asparagus
Kiwi
Cabbage
Eggplant
Cantaloupe
Watermelon
Grapefruit
Sweet Potato
Honeydew Melon

You can see the complete list of 49 here.

When in doubt, check the label: Organic produce will have a five-digit sku on the sticker; conventional produce only has a four-digit sku.

This book, written in 1962, is one of the most influential books about the ecological damage and toxic effects of chemically treated produce. It was a major catalyst in the environmental and organic produce movement.

 

Cool Free Stuff!

 You can download a wallet size version of the Clean/Dirty list here, or a nifty little iPhone app here!

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