EWG’S DIRTY DOZEN AND CLEAN FIFTEEN
In a perfect world we would all eat 100 per cent organically-grown food all the time. Also, all marriages would be blissful, world peace would break out, and pigs would fly. O.K., I dream. In our less-than-perfect world, some of us can’t afford organic produce all the time, and for others, it just isn’t available. So, the question becomes, “Which produce is it most important to buy organic, and which (in a pinch) is it safest to purchase commercially?”
Leaving aside all the other reasons to buy organic, let’s for now consider only the issue of pesticide residues. These are monitored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Testing Program, and every year the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit which studies food safety among other issues, reviews those reports and releases lists of foods with the highest and lowest levels of pesticide residues. They’ve found that onions, avocados, sweet corn, pineapple, mangos, sweet peas, asparagus, kiwi, cabbage, eggplant, cantaloupe, watermelon, grapefruit, sweet potato and honey dew melon are lowest in residues. Whereas those highest in residues include: celery, peaches, strawberries, apples, blueberries, nectarines, bell peppers, spinach, cherries, kale/collards, potatoes, and imported grapes (more on how these lists are compiled here).
Of course, commercial agricultural interests claim that these residues are harmless, whereas in most cases, harm or lack thereof has yet to be fully proven. Even the EWG says that eating commercially-grown produce is better for our health than not eating fruits and vegetables at all. Still, to me it is common sense to minimize our intake of chemicals by eating organically-grown produce as much as possible and when that’s not possible, to choose from the list of produce with the fewest residues. Finally, you might ask, will washing or peeling make these fruits and vegetables relatively safer? The answer is no, because the tests are made on produce in the form it is most frequently eaten (i.e., washed or peeled).