If you haven’t yet heard of the Environmental Working Group (EWG), they are a US based body that dedicate their time and resources to educating the public on chemicals in our food, products and environment that could be harmful to our health. Each year they release a list of the best fruits and vegetables to eat organic (the dirty dozen) and the ones that you can just buy conventionally grown (the clean fifteen) if you can’t afford to eat fully organic. Here is the list with some details on what they found.
The Dirty Dozen:
- Strawberries –1/3 of all conventional strawberry samples contained 10 or more pesticides, whilst one sample had a whopping 22 pesticide residues.
- Spinach – 97% of conventional spinach samples contained pesticides, with particularly high levels of a neurotoxic insecticide called permethrin.
- Nectarines – Close to 94% of nectarine samples contained two or more pesticides, with one sample containing residues of 15 pesticides.
- Apples – 90% of conventional apples had pesticide residues with 80% of apples tested containing diphenylamine, a pesticide banned in Europe.
- Grapes – Over 96% of conventional grapes tested positive for pesticide residues, containing an average of 5 types of pesticides.
- Peaches – On average they contain four different pesticide residues and more than 99% of conventional peaches contained pesticide residues.
- Cherries – 30% of cherry samples contained iprodione, a pesticide not allowed in Europe. On average, 5 pesticides were detected on conventional cherries.
- Pears – More than half of conventionally grown pears tested contained 5 or more pesticides. They contained several of these pesticides in relatively high concentrations.
- Tomatoes – On average, nearly 4 pesticides were detected on conventionally grown tomato. One sample contained 15 different pesticide and breakdown products.
- Celery – More than 95% of conventional celery samples tested positive for pesticides. A maximum of 13 pesticides were detected.
- Potatoes – Conventional potatoes had more pesticide residues by weight than any other crop.
- Sweet Bell Peppers (capsicum) – Approximately 90% of conventional capsicums sampled contained pesticides. They do contain the least pesticides on the list, however the pesticides used tend to be more toxic to human health.
The Clean Fifteen:
- Avocados – Fewer than 1% of conventional avocados tested positive for pesticides and only one pesticide was found on any of the 360 avocados sampled.
- Sweet Corn – Less than 2% of sweet corn sampled had any detected pesticide residues, however a small amount of sweet corn is genetically modified so best to buy organic if you wish to avoid GM produce.
- Pineapples – 90% of conventionally grown pineapples had no detectable pesticide residues and only 5 different pesticides were found on over 350 samples.
- Cabbages – Out of 700 cabbages sampled, only 2 contained more than 1 pesticide with 86% containing none at all.
- Onions – Less than 10% of conventional onions contained any pesticide residues and no more than 3 pesticides were found overall.
- Sweet Peas Frozen – Only 2 different pesticides were detected in samples with approximately 80% of conventional frozen sweet peas having no detectable pesticide residues.
- Papayas – On 80% of conventional papayas no pesticide residues were detected. In nearly 750 samples, no more than 3 different pesticides were found.
- Asparagus – 90% of conventional asparagus samples had no pesticides detected with no more than 3 pesticides detected overall.
- Mangoes – No pesticide residues were found on 78% percent of mango samples and only 2 types of pesticides were detected at all.
- Eggplants – About 75% of conventional eggplants sampled were pesticide free. No more than 3 pesticides were detected on any sample.
- Honeydew Melon – About half of the sampled conventionally grown honeydew melons had no pesticide residues. No more than 4 pesticides and breakdown products were found.
- Kiwis – 65% of sampled kiwi fruits had no pesticides. 6 different pesticides were found overall.
- Rockmelon – Only 10% of rockmelons sampled contained more than 1 pesticide and over 60% were pesticide free.
- Cauliflower – Approximately 50% of conventionally grown cauliflower contained no pesticide residues and only 3 types of pesticides were detected at all.
- Broccoli – 70% of broccoli samples had no pesticide residues and only 1 in 10 samples contained more than 1 pesticide.
Whilst this list is put together in the U.S., the same applies to Australian produce. Keep this handy guide with you when you’re out shopping for fresh produce to help you make better decisions when reducing your chemical and pesticide exposure.