Apples again have the honor of holding the top spot on the 'Dirty Dozen' list of produce. The dirty dozen is issued by the Environmental Working Group and lists which foods contain unacceptable levels of pesticide residues. Besides apples, 11 other fruits and vegetables have alarming levels of pesticide residues. These include celery, sweet bell peppers, peaches, strawberries, nectarines (imported), grapes, spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, blueberries (domestic) and potatoes.
This year, EWG scientists added a "Plus" category to highlight two crops -- green beans and leafy greens such as kale and collard greens –that were contaminated with highly toxic organophosphate insecticides. Organophosphates were originally developed in the early 19th century and some were used as chemical weapons (nerve agents) in World War II. There use has been restricted in residential areas however they are still used in commercial agriculture.
Pesticides can have a variety of effects especially on the nervous system. The health problems can range from hormone disruption to the endocrine system, cancer, brain toxicity, and skin, eye and lung irritation.
For the first time EWG tested prepared baby food of green beans, pears and sweet potatoes. Green beans tested positive for five pesticides, 92% of the pears tested positive for at least one pesticide residue while sweet potatoes came up cleanest.
The ‘Clean Fifteen’ was found to have the least amount of contamination from pesticides. Included on this list were onions, sweet corn, pineapples, avocado, cabbage, sweet peas, asparagus, mangoes, eggplant, kiwi, cantaloupe (domestic), sweet potatoes, grapefruit, watermelon and mushrooms.
Having a clean diet is important to health however it is discouraging to know that the produce we are consuming may actually be causing harm. Eating organic produce would of course be the ideal situation although finances may not always permit this. The recommended option is to eat organic the fruits and vegetables listed on the dirty dozen list. The full EWG lists can be found at www.ewg.org/foodnews.