Do you like strawberries? How about apples? Well, if you keep reading this blog, you may not feel like snacking on them any time soon…
The Environmental Working Group (a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization) just released their annual list of the “dirty dozen”. These twelve fruits and vegetables are ranked based on their average amount of pesticide contamination from almost 39,000 samples. It should be noted that these samples were all from non-organic produce. This year, they actually released a list of the thirteen most-contaminated (a baker’s dozen!), and the results were… shocking.
Cut to the chase! What’s #1?
Strawberries. This shouldn’t be surprising, since strawberries have topped the list three years in a row now. This year, a single outstanding strawberry sample exhibited a whopping twenty different kinds of pesticides. That’s twenty different kinds of chemicals and insecticides on one strawberry! Most of the samples had less than that, but 98% of the samples did have at least one. In fact, about 70% of all the non-organic produce samples were contaminated.
About 70% of all the non-organic produce samples were contaminated.
The second-most contaminated food was spinach. Spinach is a pretty lightweight vegetable, right? Well, it might shock you to find out that spinach contained 1.8 times as much pesticide residue by weight as any other fruit or veggie on this year’s list. That’s a lot of pesticides.
What are the 2018 Dirty Dozen?
- Sweet Bell Peppers
- Hot peppers
And why are there 13 this year?
The thirteenth veggie earned a kind of dishonorable mention for a very bad reason. Hot peppers were apparently found to be contaminated with an insecticide so dangerous that it’s actually toxic to the human nervous system. The EWG report suggests that people who regularly eat hot peppers should either buy organic or cook them, which will help diminish pesticide levels.
Is there any hope?!
The EWG also released a list of the “clean fifteen”, the fifteen kinds of produce that have the least amount of pesticide contamination. Avocado lovers, rejoice! Avocados top the list, with fewer than 1% of samples testing positive for pesticides. The clean fifteen also features sweet corn, pineapples, and cabbages. You definitely have some tasty, minimal-pesticide alternatives to the dirty dozen in the clean fifteen.
But wait! I buy organic – what should I do?
Well, the same trick for the hot peppers will work for any of the dirty dozen: buying organic! When possible, and financially accessible, you should try to buy organic produce. USDA Certified Organic foods, including fruits and vegetables, must adhere to strict regulations and guidelines to avoid synthetic pesticide chemicals. Organic is the way to go as often as possible!