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Jul 25, 2011

Pesticides in Our Produce

The purpose of pesticides is to kill insects and other “pests.”  They are innately toxic to living organisms, which means they are most certainly not good for living humans.  Controversy exists over just how bad pesticides are for human health, but for those interested in creating and maintaining optimum health, it’s only logical to minimize unnecessary chemical exposures as much as possible.  For some people, this means consuming only organically grown foods or foods grown without the use of synthetic pesticides (the way nature has provided foods since the beginning of human existence).  For others, it may mean buying a majority of produce known to be less contaminated with pesticides and smaller quantities or no produce known to be highly contaminated with pesticides.    

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a nonprofit group that ranks produce based on the level of measured pesticide contamination.  Rankings are based on tests from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the FDA, and a score given to each item in these six categories:

-Percentage of samples with detectable pesticide              
-Percentage of samples with 2+ pesticides                        
-Average number of pesticides found in a single sample   
-Average amount of all pesticides found
-Maximum number of pesticides in a single sample
-Total number of pesticides in the fruit or vegetable

The Dirty Dozen is a list created by the EWG that includes produce with the worst overall pesticide scores.  For 2011, here is the Dirty Dozen list:
  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Strawberries
  4. Peaches
  5. Spinach
  6. Nectarines (imported)
  7. Grapes (imported)
  8. Sweet bell peppers
  9. Potatoes
  10. Blueberries (domestic)
  11. Lettuce
  12. Kale/collard greens
The Clean 15 is EWG’s list of fruits and vegetables with the best overall pesticide scores.  Produce with the least pesticide contamination are at the top of this list:
  1. Onions
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Avocados
  5. Asparagus
  6. Sweet peas
  7. Mangoes
  8. Eggplant
  9. Cantaloupe (domestic)
  10. Kiwi
  11. Cabbage
  12. Watermelon
  13. Sweet potatoes
  14. Grapefruit
  15. Mushrooms                                                              
Dr. Shana McQueen