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The New Dirty Dozen: Are Your Favorite Fruits Contaminated?

This week the Environmental Working Group released their updated list of the “Dirty Dozen”–the 12 fruits and vegetables found to be the most contaminated, as well as the “Clean Fifteen”–the 15 least contaminated. The list is a useful guide to help consumers make better choices about when to buy organic and when to stick with conventional. Keep in mind that, when washed, most of the fruits and veggies on the Dirty Dozen list are below legal standards for pesticide exposure. It’s also important to remember that the EWG emphasizes that having a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is vital to our health and the health benefits of eating fruits and veggies outweigh the hazards posed by pesticides.

This year the “Dirty Dozen” has a surprising front runner–the apple. While I have come to expect the list to be filled with high water content foods like strawberries, celery and spinach, the apple’s dubious honor caught a lot of people off guard. After the jump, we’ll share the complete lists, as well as the best ways to help your family enjoy plenty of fruits and vegetables while avoiding unnecessary pesticide exposure.

The Dirty Dozen

1. Apples
2. Celery
3. Strawberries
4. Peaches
5. Spinach
6. Nectarines–imported
7. Grapes–imported
8. Sweet bell peppers
9. Potatoes
10. Blueberries–domestic
11. Lettuce
12. Kale/Collard greens

See any of your favorites on the list? I sure do. This list is put out to help consumers decide when to spring for organic fruits and veggies, but buying organic can be pricey, so consider augmenting with some other strategies, such as buying local and in season, and picking your own and preserving.

  • Local, small batch farmers frequently offer “low-spray” options, meaning they did use pesticides, but in very low amounts. Buying local means you can also speak with the farmer and ask what kind of techniques he or she uses on the farm.
  • Buying in season is also a great idea since in season fruits require far fewer heroic measures to keep them looking good, and tend to come from less far afield. Consider limiting consumption of favorites like strawberries, blueberries and peaches to the times when they are in season.
  • If you’re handy in the kitchen, consider picking your own berries and fruits in large quantities and putting them up for the off season. Besides canning, freezing can be a quick and easy way to be sure you have local, seasonal fruit at the ready year round.

The Clean Fifteen
1. Onions
2. Sweet Corn
3. Pineapples
4. Avocados
5. Asparagus
6. Sweet peas
7. Mangoes
8. Eggplant
9. Cantaloupe-domestic
10. Kiwi
11. Cabbage
12. Watermelon
13. Sweet potatoes
14. Grapefruit
15. Mushrooms

Since you’re going to be spending so much on organic apples (kidding ?) consider buying conventional items from this list, and save a little cash. Or consider trading out a Dirty Dozen favorite for a Clean Fifteen item, like switching berries for cantaloupe, or kale for cabbage.

What about you? What are some strategies you use to lower pesticide exposure in your family?

Farmers Market Leftovers: Creative solutions for good foods going bad!

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