This week the Environmental Working Group released it's 2014 Shoppers Guide to Pesticides in Produce, commonly known as the "Dirty Dozen" list. The Guide is an annual rating of 48 commonly purchased fruits and vegetables with the most and least pesticide residue, based on an analysis of 32,000 samples tested by the FDA and U.S. Department of Agriculture.
For more than a decade, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has been stepping in to provide information to millions of shoppers that the EPA has failed to offer, despite a 1996 "Consumer Right to Know" law that requires it. With over 65% of the thousands of samples sent in for analysis testing positive for pesticide residue, the EWG makes it easy for consumers to make an educated decision while shopping for produce.
The 2014 Dirty Dozen
These items ranked highest in pesticide residue data. It is recommended to purchase these organically grown when possible.
- 1. Apples
- 2. Strawberries
- 3. Grapes
- 4. Celery
- 5. Peaches
- 6. Spinach
- 7. Sweet Bell Peppers
- 8. Nectarines
- 9. Cucumbers
- 10. Cherry Tomatoes
- 11. Snap Peas (Imported)
- 12. Potatoes
Interesting Findings - Every sample of imported nectarines and 99% of apple samples tested positive for pesticide residue. The average potato had more pesticides by weight than any other food. A single grape sample contained 15 pesticides, and single samples of celery, cherry tomatoes, and strawberries showed 13 different pesticides apiece.
The 2014 Clean Fifteen
These items ranked lowest in pesticide residue data when grown conventionally.
- 1. Avocados
- 2. Sweet Corn
- 3. Pineapples
- 4. Cabbage
- 5. Sweet Peas (frozen)
- 6. Onions
- 7. Asparagus
- 8. Mangoes
- 9. Papayas
- 10. Kiwi
- 11. Eggplant
- 12. Grapefruit
- 13. Cantaloupe
- 14. Cauliflower
- 15. Sweet Potatoes
Interesting Findings - Avocados were the cleanest, with only 1% of samples showing any detectable pesticides. No single fruit on the Clean Fifteen tested positive for more than 4 pesticides. Only 5.5% of Clean Fifteen samples had two or more pesticides. 89% of pineapples had no residue, as did 82% of kiwis, and 61% of cantaloupe.
By releasing this list every year, the EWG empowers consumers who may otherwise find the cost of purchasing all organic produce cost- prohibitive. By referencing The Guide, shoppers are able to select between conventionally grown and organically grown produce with real data backing up their choice.
Why Should I Avoid Pesticides?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, "The health effects of pesticides depend on the type of pesticide. Some such as organophosphates and carbamates, affect the nervous system. Others may irritate the skin or eyes. Some pesticides may be carcinogens. Others may affect the hormone or endocrine system in the body."
Pesticides pose an even greater health risk to our children.
- The National Academy of Sciences reports that children are more susceptible to chemicals than adults, and estimates that 50% of lifetime pesticide exposure occurs in the first 5 years of life.
- The EPA reports that children take in more pesticides relative to body weight than adults, and have developing organ systems that are more vulnerable and less able to detoxify toxins.
- A 2000 study published by the EWG found that pesticides such as the weedkiller 2,4-D pass from mother to child through umbilical cord blood and breast milk.
- Researchers at the University of California-Berkeley found that exposure to pesticides while in the womb may increase the odds that a child will have ADHD.
Why is Organic More Expensive?
Organically grown produce more closely reflects the true price of farming. Government subsidies tend to go towards large-scale, chemically intensive agriculture, lowering the true price of these conventionally grown products. The very practice of growing organic, such as restricted chemical use, better standards of care for animals, and more manual labor, is more costly to the farmer. In order to have the USDA-certified Organic seal on their product, organic farmers must pay for certification costs.
Shopping at your local farmers market can be a good way to save money on organically grown produce, particularly for those items that appear on the Dirty Dozen list. Often, your small, local farmer may employ organic growing practices, even if he/ she has not paid for the organic certification. In addition, you are not paying to have these items shipped from 1/2 way around the globe. These savings are passed on to you, the consumer. Local farmers are happy to talk to you about their growing practices, and will often invite you to their farm should you want to verify for yourself.
Shop smart, shop local, and don't leave home without The Guide!
Melissa Zimmerman, Healthy Goods