The Dirty Dozen: foods to grow or buy organic

2012-06-04

The New Dirty Dozen: 12 Foods to Eat Organic
The latest list of foods with the highest pesticide residue includes some familiar fruits and vegetables, and some surprises. By Dan Shapley ~ Read more: http://www.thedailygreen.com/healthy-eating/eat-safe/dirty-dozen-foods#ixzz1u27ifsv4
FOODS WITH PESTICIDE RESIDUE
The benefits of eating organic food go straight to the farm, where no pesticides and chemical fertilizers are used to grow the organic produce shipped to grocers. That means workers and farm neighbors aren’t exposed to potentially harmful chemicals, it means less fossil fuel converted into fertilizers and it means healthier soil that should sustain crops for generations to come.
For individuals, organic food also has benefits. Eating organic means avoiding the pesticide residue left on foods, and it may even mean more nutritious varietals, though research into that subject has yielded mixed results. While there are few if any proven health impacts from consuming trace quantities of pesticides on foods, a growing number of people take the precaution of avoiding exposure just in case, particularly in the cases of pregnant women (growing babies are exposed to most of the chemicals that mom consume) and the parents of young children.
But organic food can cost more, meaning many families are loathe to shell out the extra cash for organic produce on every shopping trip. That’s what makes the Environmental Working Group’s annual list of the dirty dozen foods so useful. The group analyzes Department of Agriculture data about pesticide residue and ranks foods based on how much or little pesticide residue they have. The group estimates that individuals can reduce their exposure by 80% if they switch to organic when buying these 12 foods.
The USDA and farm and food industry representatives are quick to remind consumers that the government sets allowable pesticide residue limits it deems safe, and the produce for sale in your grocery store should meet those standards. Watchdogs like Environmental Working Group see those limits as too liberal, and see the dirty dozen list as a teaching tool to educate consumers about the benefits of organic food.
Even Environmental Working Group says that the benefits of eating fresh fruits and vegetables outweighs the known risks of consuming pesticide residue. At TheDailyGreen.com, we always favor educating consumers so that we can make the decision for ourselves.
Note: In general, tree fruits, berries, leafy greens dominate the list. Since the USDA tests produce after a typical household preparation, fruits and vegetables with thick skins that are removed before eating (melons, avocado, corn, etc.) tend to have the lowest amounts of pesticide residue. If you don’t see a favorite food here, check Whats On My Food, a project of the Pesticide Action Network that makes the same USDA pesticide residue testing data available in an easy-to-use database. Read more: http://www.thedailygreen.com/healthy-eating/eat-safe/dirty-dozen-foods#ixzz1u27Rn8F4
1. Apples
Topping the 2011 dirty dozen list is a tree fruit that always makes the list: Apples. (Apples ranked No. 2 in 2009 and No. 4 in 2010.) more than 40 different pesticides have been detected on apples, because fungus and insect threats prompt farmers to spray various chemicals on their orchards. Not surprisingly, pesticide residue is also found in apple juice and apple sauce, making all apple products smart foods to buy organic. Some recommend peeling apples to reduce exposure to pesticide residue, but be aware that you’re peeling away many of the fruit’s most beneficial nutrients when you do so! Can’t find organic apples? Safer alternatives include watermelon, bananas and tangerines.
2. Celery
Another perennial food on the dirty dozen list is celery. It’s a good one to commit to memory, since it doesn’t fit the three main categories of foods with the highest pesticide residue (tree fruits, berries and leafy greens). USDA tests have found more than 60 different pesticides on celery. Can’t find organic celery? Safer alternatives with a similar crunch include broccoli, radishes and onions.
3. Strawberries
Strawberries are always on the list of dirty dozen foods, in part because fungus prompts farmers to spray, and pesticide residue remains on berries sold at market. Nearly 60 different pesticides have been found on strawberries, though fewer are found on frozen strawberries. Can’t find organic strawberries? Safer alternatives include kiwi and pineapples.
4. Peaches
Another tree fruit that always makes the dirty dozen list: peaches. more than 60 pesticides have been found on peaches, an nearly as many in single-serving packs, but far fewer in canned peaches. Safer alternatives include watermelon, tangerines, oranges and grapefruit.
5. Spinach
Leading the leafy green pesticide residue category is spinach, with nearly 50 different pesticides. (While frozen spinach has nearly as many, canned has had fewer detected pesticides.)
6. Nectarines (Imported)
Nectarines, at least imported ones, are among the most highly contaminated tree fruits. Domestic nectarines don’t test with as much pesticide residue, but overall 33 pesticides have been detected on nectarines. Can’t find organic nectarines? Try pineapple, papaya or mango.
7. Grapes (Imported)
Another perennial entrant on the dirty dozen list, imported grapes can have more than 30 pesticides. Raisins, not surprisingly, also have high pesticide residue tests. Makes you wonder about wine, eh?
8. Sweet Bell Peppers
Another fruit that usually makes the dirty dozen list because it tends to have high pesticide residue is the sweet bell pepper, in all of its colorful varieties. Nearly 50 different pesticides have been detected on sweet bell peppers
9. Potatoes
America’s favorite vegetable is the potato; unfortunately, more than 35 pesticides have been detected on potatoes in USDA testing. Sweet potatoes offer a delicious alternative with less chance of pesticide residue.
10. Blueberries
Blueberries usually make the dirty dozen list, since more than 50 pesticides have been detected as residue on them. Frozen blueberries have proved somewhat less contaminated. Unfortunately, obvious alternatives like cranberries and cherries, while they may not make the dirty dozen list this year, are often contaminated themselves. For breakfast cereal, if you can’t find blueberries, consider topping with bananas
11. Lettuce
Joining spinach in the leafy greens category, lettuce makes the list of dirty dozen foods with the most pesticides. More than 50 pesticides have been identified on lettuce. If you can’t find organic lettuce, alternatives include asparagus.
12. Kale (Tie)
A superfood, traditionally kale is known as a hardier vegetable that rarely suffers from pests and disease, but it was found to have high amounts of pesticide residue when tested in each of the past two years. Can’t find organic kale? Safer alternatives include cabbage, asparagus and broccoli. Dandelion greens also make a nutritious alternative.
13. Collard Greens (Tie)
Put on par wit kale for the 2011 dirty dozen list, collard greens tests have revealed more than 45 pesticides. Alternatives include Brussels sprouts, dandelion greens and cabbage.