The dirty dozen

At the grocery store last weekend, a woman near me in the produce section pulled on the sleeve of her boy friend’s jacket and led him to the strawberry display. “Want to see something stupid?” she asked, pointing at the stacks upon stacks of strawberries in plastic containers. “Why would anyone pay for these strawberries, when they can buy twice as many of these strawberries for half the cost?!”

Since I’d recently put strawberries into my basket, I was intrigued. Based on the direction of her points, I’d selected the more expensive option with fewer strawberries. Had I missed a sale? I immediately headed over to investigate.

Ah. Yes. There was a sale I’d missed. A really, really good sale. But those inexpensive strawberries? Sure, there were twice as many of them for nearly half the price… but they weren’t organic. I had a moment to wonder if I was being overly zealous in my commitment to organic produce. Why not save the money? I could get so many more strawberries for my berry-loving son.

So many more strawberries, with so many more pesticides.

As you probably already know, strawberries are on the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list – a list of the 12 most pesticide-ridden foods.

I once heard a nutritionist claim she wouldn’t stand in the same room with a strawberry if it wasn’t organic. I’m sure she was exaggerating, but who knows? After all, thirteen different pesticides can be detected on a single strawberry sample. Thirteen! And if you think thoroughly washing your food will help, think again. Pesticides are absorbed by the whole fruit or vegetable, not just the skin. In fact, data is collected from produce as it is typically eaten (meaning washed and peeled, if applicable), so those thirteen strawberry pesticides are detected after washing.

Ew. Always good to keep in mind when you go shopping.

The Dirty Dozen:

  • strawberries
  • domestic blueberries
  • peaches
  • apples
  • imported grapes (including wine – ack!)
  • nectarines
  • cherries
  • celery
  • sweet bell peppers
  • spinach
  • kale
  • collard greens
  • potatoes

Of course, my budget doesn’t always allow for passing up sales on “regular” (not organic) food. And, while I live in an area practically overflowing with organic markets, farmers markets, and CSAs, not all of us are so lucky. Thankfully, EWG also has a list called the “Clean 15” – a list of produce least likely to be contaminated with pesticides. If you need to save a little green, or simply don’t have access to organic options, these foods are your safest bet:

  • onions
  • sweet corn
  • sweet peas
  • asparagus
  • cabbage
  • eggplant
  • sweet potatoes
  • avocados
  • pineapples
  • mangoes
  • kiwi
  • domestic cantaloupe
  • watermelon
  • grapefruit
  • honeydew

Check out the full list, ranked from best to worst, of the 50 most commonly eaten fruits and vegetables here.

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Filed under food, Toxics

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