No one would deny that eating fruits and vegetables is good for you. They contain nutrients that are necessary to our health and vital functions.
They not only stave off disease and infection but can cure ills we already have. Most people in North America don’t get enough in their normal diets; nutritionists and medical practitioners are always telling us to eat more.
But what if there’s poison on the foods that are supposed to be best for us?
The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit advocacy group, recently released the results of its yearly study of the top most pesticide-laden produce, Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. Its data are derived from U.S. Department of Agriculture’s samples of 48 fruits and vegetables—an astounding 65% of the items sampled returned evidence of pesticide contamination.
The effects of pesticide are dire, not only for insects and slugs, but for humans who eat the affected foods. There is evidence of a connection with developmental problems in children, cancer, and functions of the endocrine system. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency maintains a list of registered pesticides along with their fact sheets for public consumption on its website. EWG’s senior analyst and author of its Shopper’s Guide, Sonya Lunder reminds us:
“For decades, various toxic pesticides were claimed to be ‘safe’—until they weren’t, and either banned or phased out because they posed risks to people. While regulators and scientists debate these and other controversies about pesticide safety, EWG will continue drawing attention to the fruits and vegetables with the highest pesticide loads.”
Shopper’s Guide doesn’t cover just the dirty, it offers a list of “clean” produce as well, known as the Clean 15. These are fruits and vegetables least likely to retain pesticide when brought to market; avocados topped this list with only 1% of the sample containing any pesticide—another reason to love this superfood. Also included in the report are vegetables that didn’t make the list but should cause concern due to traces of hazardous pesticides.
The most common North American fruit made the top of this Dirty Dozen:
- Apples – 99% of all apples tested showed residual pesticide
- Strawberries – just one of these cute little fruits contained 13 different pesticides
- Grapes – treated with 15 pesticides
- Celery – while rich in fiber, the sample was covered with 13 pesticides
- Peaches – fuzzy is fine but not the poisonous kind
- Spinach – what would Popeye do?
- Bell peppers – ding-dong don’t
- Nectarines (imported) – 100% of all imported fruits in this sample showed at least one pesticide
- Cucumber – not cool
- Cherry tomatoes – 13 pesticides were found on a single tomato
- Potatoes – this vegetable receives the dubious distinction of containing more residual pesticides by weight than any other produce in the study
- Snap peas – one pod tested positive for 13 pesticides
So how do we get what’s good for us so that it’s really good for us? Grow your own when you can, buy local, and buy organic. As with any food, know the source and wash all produce thoroughly before eating.