Daily News Archive
From October 5, 2006                                                                                                        

New Pesticides in Produce Guide Released
(Beyond Pesticides, October 5, 2006)
The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a Washington, DC -based public health organization, released a revised scorecard yesterday for pesticide-contaminated produce. The Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce is available for free on EWG’s Food News website in both English and Spanish. Their wallet-sized card lists the top 12 most contaminated (“Dirty Dozen”) and the 12 most “Consistently Clean” fruits and vegetables.

The 12 “dirtiest” items in order are: peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, grapes (imported), spinach, lettuce, and potatoes.

The 12 “cleanest” are: onions, avocado, sweet corn (frozen), pineapples, mango, asparagus, sweet peas (frozen), kiwi fruit, bananas, cabbage, broccoli, and papaya.

According to EWG, eating the 12 most contaminated items will expose you to around 15 pesticides a day, as opposed to fewer than two from the 12 least-toxic fruits and vegetables. An EWG simulation shows that by replacing the most contaminated foods with the least contaminated in your diet, you can reduce your exposure to pesticides by almost 90 percent. Rinsing and peeling produce can help reduce exposure as well, but do not eliminate it entirely as this also causes a loss of some nutrients. EWG suggests, “The best option is to eat a varied diet, wash all produce, and choose organic when possible to reduce exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.”

EWG compiled the list by using an analysis of nearly 43,000 tests administered by the US Food and Drug Administration for pesticides on 43 popular fruits and vegetables. EWG’s methodology was based on six measures of contamination including the percent of samples tested with detectable pesticides, percent of samples with two or more pesticides, average number of pesticides found on a sample, average amount (in parts per million) of all pesticides found, maximum number of pesticides found on a single sample, and the number of pesticides found on the commodity in total.

According to Richard Wiles, EWG’s senior vice president, “Federal produce tests tell us that some fruits and vegetables are so likely to be contaminated with pesticides that you should always buy them organic.” EWG emphasizes that organic produce, while meeting strict federal guidelines on pesticide use, must also meet the same sanitation standards as conventional produce.

For a quick refresher on the meaning of organic, click here.