Grocery Produce Alert

Tips for Avoiding Contaminated Foods

When organic fruits and veggies aren’t available, we can turn to the next “best bet.” We can forego the dirty dozen in the grocery produce aisle and choose produce that’s more consistently clean. Thanks to the Environmental Working Group, we know what these are. Study of 42,000 government tests for pesticide residues plus consumer washing and peeling habits for 43 fruits and vegetables yielded a definitive answer.

“Most contaminated” fruit picks, in order, are peaches, apples, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears and imported grapes. Most contaminated veggies, in order, are sweet bell peppers, celery, spinach, lettuce and potatoes.

Washing before eating may reduce levels of some pesticides, but it does not eliminate them. Peeling also reduces exposures, though valuable nutrients go in the trash or compost pile along with the pesticides and peel.

The better solution is to consistently buy organic alternatives for pesticide-laden produce, and purchase standard grocery produce for “least contaminated” fruits and veggies in a pinch. Cleanest picks, in order, are onions, sweet corn, asparagus, sweet peas, cabbage and broccoli, and, avocados, pineapples, mangos, kiwi, bananas and papaya.

Simulation of typical high- and low-pesticide diets shows that Americans can lower pesticide exposure by as much as 90 percent just by avoiding the dirty dozen of produce. Scientists note that while eating the 12 worst fruits and veggies exposes us to about 15 pesticides a day, eating the 12 best will cut it to less than two pesticides a day.

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