One of the most common reasons that people choose to buy organic produce is to reduce their exposure to pesticide residue. Organic produce typically carries significantly fewer pesticide residues than conventional produce, but also tends to be more expensive than conventional produce, which can present a dilemma for the health and budget conscious shopper.
Fortunately, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit, nonpartisan research and advocacy group that specializes in human environmental and health issues, has created a “Dirty Dozen” list and a “Clean 15” list meant to help consumers shop smart when purchasing produce. If a fruit or vegetable appears on the Dirty Dozen list, it has a high level of pesticide residue, and the EWG recommends buying the organic version of this product. Conventionally grown produce that appears on the Clean 15 List has low levels of pesticide residue, and the EWG deems these safe to eat.
The Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists are a distillation of a larger study that the EWG conducts yearly. The study rates a total of 48 types of conventional produce in order of those with most to least pesticide residues. A few highlights from the 2014 study:
• The average potato had more pesticides by weight than any other food.
• A single grape sample contained 15 pesticides. Single samples of celery, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas and strawberries showed 13 different pesticides apiece.
• Avocados are very clean: Only 1 percent of avocado samples showed any detectable pesticides.
• 89 percent of pineapples, 82 percent of kiwi, 80 percent of papayas, 88 percent of mango and 61 percent of cantaloupe had no residues.
The EWG states that their goal in doing this study is to fill the void left by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “which has largely failed to tell Americans they have a right to know about the risks of pesticide exposure and ways they can reduce pesticides in their diets.” The EWG also states that the health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh risks of pesticide exposure.
The Dirty Dozen (Buy these organic)
Sweet bell peppers
Imported snap peas
The Clean 15 (Lowest in pesticides)
Frozen sweet peas
—Liz Weslander is the copywriter and social media coordinator at The Merc Co-op, 901 Iowa St. To learn more about The Merc, visit www.themerc.coop or call 843-8544.