Farmer’s market season is in full swing again. And it’s got me thinking…
I’m not sure I’ve ever written about the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean Fifteen” lists in this space. But it’s something I discuss with my patients all the time. And since the latest lists came out just recently, I couldn’t think of a better time to share them.
These are the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) annual lists of the dirtiest and cleanest produce. (The EWG is a health- and environment-focused nonprofit.) And yes — it’s both disturbing and ridiculous that these lists even exist in the first place.
But until we stop Big Agribusiness from controlling almost everything we eat, it’ll continue to be a necessary evil.
This isn’t to discourage you from eating fruits and vegetables, of course. But it’s an important disclaimer for anyone on a budget who thinks higher-priced organic produce isn’t worth the extra cost.
As these annual lists show, there are at least a dozen cases where buying organic should be a priority. And for anyone who might argue that it’s unaffordable and unrealistic on a daily basis, consider the value you’re getting in return.
When you eat truly good, quality food, less is more. As in more nutritious, more delicious, and more peace of mind.
So back to the latest rankings…
This year’s “Dirty Dozen” features the same cast of characters as years before… they’ve just shuffled places.
Specifically, nearly all of the strawberry samples — a whopping 98 percent — had pesticide residue. (Just one sample alone was covered in 20 of these chemicals!) And they found residue from at least one pesticide on spinach, peaches, nectarines, cherries, and apples, too.
The complete list — with the “dirtiest” produce listed first — is as follows:
- Sweet bell peppers
In addition to the “Dirty Dozen” there’s also the “Clean Fifteen.” These are the selections least likely to test positive for pesticide reside. Which means that these are the safest to buy conventionally grown and non-organic.
The list — with the “cleanest” produce at the top — includes:
- Sweet corn
- Frozen sweet peas
- Honeydew melon
There are some excellent nutrition choices on this “clean” list. Though I must say, it’s still not exactly reassuring in the grand scheme of things. Remember, these items are just the least likely to be contaminated. It doesn’t necessarily mean they’re free from chemical toxins altogether.
Just so you know, the analysis involved in making the 2018 lists included a total of 39,000 samples. And testing revealed a staggering 230 different pesticides and pesticide by-products on these samples — all of which are potentially toxic.
This fact alone is disgusting. Yet somehow, we tolerate it as a society.
“Organic” — according to government labels — is defined as food grown without synthetic chemicals or fertilizers, genetic engineering, radiation, or sewage sludge.
Which means that everything else you buy without that a “certified organic” label has more than likely been exposed to all of this filth. And we just dismiss it as “the cost of doing business.”
Even though certain pesticides (chlorpyrifos among them) have been linked to problems with brain development and behavior among small children, as well as fertility problems in women. (And if you’ve been a reader of mine for a while, you know that’s just the tip of the iceberg.)
So next time you go food shopping, do yourself a favor and take these lists with you. And remember that even “clean” produce needs to be washed. (Warm tap water is fine.)
Rinsing off your produce won’t do much to address any pesticide residue (the only way to avoid that completely is to buy organic). But it will cut down on viruses and bacteria, which are a big source of foodborne illness. And in a world where eating healthy is already nearly impossible, every little tip and hack helps.
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