You may want to think twice about noshing on that celery stick, and perhaps that carrot stick too. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), conventional (non-organic) celery could contain 67 different pesticides. The study released by the EWG, which was based on the analysis of the Dept. of Agriculture and FDA, found astonishing levels of pesticide across at least 12 common fruits and vegetables. Consider the findings by EWG*:
Of the 12 most contaminated foods dubbed "The Dirty Dozen" seven are fruits: peaches, strawberries, apples, domestic blueberries, nectarines, cherries and imported grapes.
- More than 96 percent of peaches tested positive for pesticides, followed by nectarines (95.1 percent) and apples (93.6 percent)
- Nearly 86 percent of peaches contained 2 or more pesticide residues ‚ followed by apples (82.3 percent) and nectarines (80.6 percent)
- Strawberries and domestic blueberries each had 13 pesticides detected on a single sample. Peaches and apples were second, with 9 pesticides on one sample
- Peaches had been treated with more pesticides than any other produce, registering combinations of up to 67 different chemicals. Strawberries were next, with an astounding 53 pesticides and apples with 47
Of the vegetables among the Dirty Dozen, celery, sweet bell peppers, spinach, kale, collard greens and potatoes are most likely to retain pesticide contamination:
- Some 95 percent all celery samples tested positive for pesticides, followed by imported cucumbers (84.5 percent) and potatoes (84.2 percent)
- Nearly 85 percent of celery samples contained multiple pesticides, followed by sweet bell peppers (61.5 percent) and collard greens (53.2 percent)
- A single celery was contaminated with 13 different chemicals, followed by kale (10), and collard greens, domestic green beans, spinach and lettuce (9)
- Celery had been treated with as many as 67 pesticides, followed by sweet bell peppers (63) and kale (57)
There is a general consensus that organic is better for your health than conventional. The most common counterargument I hear is that organic food is expensive. There is no denying that organic food often costs more, however I am a firm believer that if you arm yourself with good information you'll make better decisions that can prove economically beneficial in the long-run.
When it comes to buying produce, I choose organic / pesticide-free whenever possible, and default to conventional if organic is not available - that is until I ran across this list of the highest pesticide retaining produce. The figures were compelling enough for me to rethink my strategy, and to motivate a deeper investigation.
In the past I've purchased conventional potatoes reasoning that because this root vegetable is grown in the ground, it is unlikely to have been exposed to the harmful effects of spraying. This list exposed the fallacy of that argument when I read that potatoes were among the dirty dozen, and conversely onions and leafy green cabbages contained far fewer pesticides. So now when forced between the choice of a conventional potato or nothing, I choose nothing.
On the other hand, the findings by EWG also provides insight into the "Cleanest" fruits and vegetables, enabling consumers to make smarter decisions and save money. For example, onions, avocados and corn contained the least amount of pesticides of the fruits and vegetables included in the study. The following are deemed "The Clean 15": onions, avocados, corn, pineapples, mango, sweet peas, asparagus, kiwi, cabbage, eggplant, cantaloupe, watermelon, grapefruit, sweet potatoes, and honeydew melon.
It may be the case that after reading this post you will come to a conclusion different from the one I have made. Your diet, your decision, and it should be respected. Nonetheless, I wanted to share with you the full list to help you develop an informed decision on how you shop and eat. Of importance is determining for yourself where to draw the line on this list so that you can decide for yourself and your family the value and economics of the organic/conventional food.
It is my sincere hope that you will share this list with your friends and family to facilitate better decisions related to food; and that in doing so promote a thoughtful and respectful conversation about what we eat. It would be great to hear your thoughts on this list, how you shop for food and what surprises you may have encountered.
This is a particularly long list, but I found it useful to memorize the extremities, that is the best and worst ten on the list.
The Full List: 49 Fruits and Veggies
|Rank||Fruit or Veggie|
|3||Sweet Corn (Frozen)*|
|5||Mango (Subtropical and Tropical)|
|6||Sweet Peas (Frozen)|
|8||Kiwi Fruit (Subtropical and Tropical)|
|29||Green Beans (Imported)|
|34||Green Beans (Domestic)|
|41||Kale / Collard Greens|
|43||Sweet Bell Peppers|
*Source: Environmental Working Group's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides via Food News