Yesterday, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a group devoted to using the power of public information to protect public health and the environment, released its 2011 Shopper’s Guide. This guide included information regarding the amount of pesticide residue found on 53 of the fruits and veggies we eat. Here’s what they found out:
Onions were number one on the "Clean 15" list,
meaning they were lowest in pesticide residue.
Photo by Alexandre Dulaunoy/Courtesy Flickr
The 15 items of produce that were lowest in pesticide residue were:
6. Sweet peas
13. Sweet potatoes
Apples ranked highest on the "Dirty Dozen" list. The results
stated that pesticide residue was found on 98 percent of the apples tested.
Photo by iMaffo/Courtesy Flickr
And the items that were highest? Here’s this year’s “Dirty Dozen:”
8. Sweet bell peppers
12. Kale/Collard grasses
The guide suggested that if grocery shoppers had to buy any item on the “Dirty Dozen” list, they buy it organic. The EWG President Ken Cook stated that buying organic is always the better option, but that he realized that’s not always an option for everyone.
“Our guide helps consumers concerned about pesticides to make better choices among conventional produce,” Cook says.
So, why are we so concerned about pesticide residue on our produce, anyway? Turns out there are a lot of reasons to be worried. According to a report by the EWG, pesticides can be extremely harmful to both human health and the environment. Pesticides have been linked to cancer, hormone system disruption, nervous system toxicity, and even IQ deficits among children.
Pesticides are harmful to the health of the environment and to humans as well.
Photo by jetsandzeppelins/Courtesy Flickr
With all of the hype surrounding pesticide residue on our produce, it would make sense to look to other food groups for the same nutrients, right?
Wrong. The EWG did recognize that the health benefits of fruits and vegetables, whether they are on the “Clean 15” or the “Dirty Dozen” list far outweigh the risk of pesticide exposure. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, people who eat more fruits and vegetables on a regular basis are likely to have a reduced risk of some chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, obesity and heart disease.
There are a few precautions we can take to protect ourselves. The report stated that consumers who choose five servings of fruits and vegetables a day from the “Clean 15” rather than from the “Dirty Dozen” list could significantly lower their risk for health complications.
However, for those of us who still want to enjoy the occasional apple or grape, it’s important to remember that any produce should be thoroughly washed before consumption. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a few tips on how to clean our fruits and vegetables:
1. Wash produce with large amounts of cold or warm tap water, and scrub with a brush when appropriate; do not use soap.
2. Throw away the outer leaves of leafy vegetables such as lettuce and cabbage.
3. Trim the fat from meat, and fat and skin from poultry and fish. Residues of some pesticides concentrate in animal fat.