Organic food has been gaining popularity lately, thanks to increasing consumer awareness of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. However, since it’s pricier than conventional food, you might not always buy organic. Or maybe the season affects your decision. But what you need to know is this: some conventional fruits and veggies are more likely to have synthetic pesticide residue than the others.
Pesticides are used to control pests and germs, helping crops thrive. What’s worrisome is that these chemicals can also harm humans, creating a tricky situation. To make things worse, the safety precautions taken with pesticide use are unclear and controversial.1 So, why take the risk? If you don’t always buy organic, be smart with your choices.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) created a report/list called the “Dirty Dozen,” which features the top 12 foods that are most likely to be contaminated with pesticides. The report was based on tests by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which used 36,000 samples of 48 different kinds of conventional produce.2 Based on this, here’s a countdown of the 12 foods that are most likely to have pesticides, from the least to the greatest.
Foods That Need To Be Organic
In the United States, potatoes are widely consumed. But they also make the list of the most contaminated foods! To enjoy this American staple, buy organic or choose sweet potato, which isn’t a part of the list.
11. Sweet Bell Peppers
Do you like bell peppers? Skip the conventional kind. The EWG doesn’t indicate a specific color, so play it safe and buy organic red, orange, yellow, and green bell peppers.
From pasta sauce to ketchup, tomatoes are a huge part of the American diet. Because of this, it’s always best to buy organic, even if you’re looking at commercial sauces. Better yet, make your own with organic tomatoes.
Celery doubles as a nutritious, easy snack. It’s also a classic ingredient on veggie party platters. To limit your risk for pesticide exposure, skip conventional celery.
Grapes call for little to no prep work. Just pick and eat! But if you buy conventional grapes, you’ll get a side of synthetic chemicals.
Cherries are sweet, tart, and highly likely to have pesticide residues. Consider picking your own cherries at an organic farm. Otherwise, buy from a local producer.
Once upon a time, pears were 22nd on the list of contaminated foods. In the new 2017 report, they jumped up to sixth place. The pesticide residues on pears have more than doubled since 2010, going from 9 to 20 per pear sample.3
Peaches are juicy and delicious, but they’re likely to be contaminated. More than 98 percent of the samples tested had at least one pesticide.4 To avoid these chemicals, choose organic options even when buying canned goods.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away… if it’s organic. As the fourth most contaminated food, apples are high up on the list. Keep this in mind if you love this tasty fruit.
Like peaches, nectarines are high up on the list. The two are closely related, with the absence of fuzzy skin being the only difference. To safely enjoy nectarines, go organic.
Conventional spinach is the second most contaminated food. In fact, of all the samples tested, three-fourths had a neurotoxic bug killer that’s banned in Europe. Thorough washing will remove some – but not all – of the pesticides.5
Strawberries steal the first place as the most contaminated food. While most produce has 2.3 different pesticides, in 2014 and 2015, strawberries had 7.7! That’s more than thrice as much. And many of these stick around even after rinsing and washing.6 If there’s only one food that you buy organic, always make it strawberries.
|↑1||Pesticides. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑2||Dirty Dozen. Environmental Working Group.|
|↑3||Pears, Now With an Extra Helping of Pesticides, Join the Dirty Dozen™. Environmental Working Group.|
|↑4||EWG’s 2017 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™. Environmental Working Group.|
|↑5||EU-Banned Pesticide Found on Spinach, Now Second on Dirty Dozen™. Environmental Working Group.|
|↑6||Pesticides + Poison Gases = Cheap, Year-Round Strawberries. Environmental Working Group.|