October 01, 2016
Pesticides in Produce

Pesticides in Produce

by Berkeley Wellness  |  

Though the risks of consuming minuscule amounts of pesticides from food are unclear, you may still wish to minimize exposure, especially when it comes to children, who are more vulnerable to pesticide toxicity. Buying organic is the best way to do this, but because these foods cost more, it can be hard on your budget to eat a 100 percent organic diet. You might instead opt to limit your organic purchases to those fruits and vegetables that tend to have the most pesticide residues and fill the rest of your basket with conventional foods.

The nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG) ranks fruits and vegetables, from most to least contaminated, based on testing by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Strawberries, apples, nectarines, peaches, celery, grapes, and cherries top its 2016 Dirty Dozen list. Kale, collard greens, and hot peppers did not meet traditional Dirty Dozen criteria but were of "special concern" because they were found to be contaminated with chemicals that are especially toxic to the human nervous system—organophosphate and carbamate insecticides.

The Clean Fifteen—those with the least residues—include avocados, sweet corn, cabbage, pineapples, cabbage, sweet peas (frozen), onions, and asparagus. Of the avocadoes sampled, only 1 percent had detectable residues.

To find out how the produce was tested, read EWG's Executive Summary. You can also get a downloadable version of the full guide to have on your smartphone or tablet for when you go shopping.