How to choose Organic vs Non-organic in the Fruit & Veg aisle

Guys, have you all seen or heard about the US’s Environmental Working Group (EWG)’s Dirty Dozen™ and Clean Fifteen™ Lists?

The EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™, updated every year since 2004, ranks pesticide contamination of 47 popular fruits and vegetables in the US. The guide is based on results of more than 38,800 samples of produce tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration. It is important to note that the samples are tested for pesticides after they have been prepared to be eaten. This means the produce is thoroughly washed and, when applicable, peeled. After these preparations, pesticide residues are still detected on many of the fruits and veggies.

The idea of the EWG’s Shopper’s Guide is to help consumers make the best choices for their families and reduce their exposures to toxic pesticides.

While the Dirty Dozen™ and Clean Fifteen™ lists are based on tests of produce sold in the US, we can use them as a broad basis for our own fruit and veg shopping choices here in Ireland.

Here’s a quick explainer video about the EWG’s Guide:

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE DIRTY DOZEN™ FOR 2018

For the 2018 Dirty Dozen list, EWG singled out produce with the highest loads of pesticide residues. This year the list includes, in descending order, strawberriesspinach, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, potatoes and sweet bell peppers.

Each of these foods tested positive for a number of different pesticide residues and contained higher concentrations of pesticides than other produce.

Key findings:

  • More than 98 percent of samples of strawberries, spinach, peaches, nectarines, cherries and apples tested positive for residue of at least one pesticide.
  • A single sample of strawberries showed 20 different pesticides.
  • Spinach samples had, on average, 1.8 times as much pesticide residue by weight than any other crop.

THE CLEAN FIFTEEN™

EWG’s Clean Fifteen list of produce least likely to contain pesticide residues included avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbages, onions, frozen sweet peas, papayas, asparagus, mangoes, eggplants, honeydews, kiwis, cantaloupes, cauliflower and broccoli. Relatively few pesticides were detected on these foods, and tests found low total concentrations of pesticide residues.

Key findings:

  • Avocados and sweet corn were the cleanest. Less than 1 percent of samples showed any detectable pesticides.
  • More than 80 percent of pineapples, papayas, asparagus, onions and cabbages had no pesticide residues.
  • No single fruit sample from the Clean Fifteen tested positive for more than four pesticides.
  • Multiple pesticide residues are extremely rare on Clean Fifteen vegetables. Only 5 percent of Clean Fifteen vegetable samples had two or more pesticides.

See the full list of fruits and vegetables with pesticide residue data.

Click here to download and print a handy version of these two lists for your wallet.

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