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What's on your produce?
By Ashley Macha
Are the fruits and vegetables you buy clean enough to eat?
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) studied 100,000 produce pesticide reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to create a list of 49 of the dirtiest and cleanest produce.
So before you hit the grocery store, see how some of your favorite fruits and veggies measured up.
Did one of your favorites make the list? Don't worry, the EWG recommends purchasing organic or locally grown varieties, which can lower pesticide intake by 80% versus conventionally grown produce.
This stalky vegetable tops the dirty list. Research showed that a single celery stalk had 13 pesticides, while, on the whole, celery contained as many as 67 pesticides.
Chemicals fester on this vegetable as it has no protective skin and its stems cup inward, making it difficult to wash the entire surface of the stalk. It’s not easy to find locally grown celery, so if you like this crunchy veggie, go organic.
Peaches are laced with 67 different chemicals, placing it second on the 2010 Dirty Dozen list of most contaminated fruits and vegetables. They have soft fuzzy skin, a delicate structure, and high susceptibility to most pests, causing them to sprayed more frequently.
This red, juicy fruit has a soft, seedy skin, allowing easier absorption of pesticides. Research showed that strawberries contained 53 pesticides. Try to buy strawberries at a local farmer’s market for a sweet dessert.
Apples are high-maintenance fruit, needing many pesticides to stave off mold, pests, and diseases. The EWG found 47 different kinds of pesticides on apples, and while produce washes can help remove some of the residue, they’re not 100% effective.
Dirty: Blueberries (domestic)
These antioxidant-rich berries have a thin layer of skin that allows chemicals to more easily contaminate the fruit. Domestic blueberries were loaded with 13 pesticides on a single sample, according to the EWG. Imported blueberries also made the list at No. 14 for the dirtiest produce.
Dirty: Sweet bell pepper
This crunchy, yet thin-skinned, vegetable is highly susceptible to pesticides. According to the EWG, sweet bell peppers showed traces of 63 types of pesticides. While some pesticides can be washed away, many still remain.
Dirty: Spinach, kale, collard greens
These leafy green vegetables are on the Dirty Dozen list, with spinach loaded with 45 different kinds of pesticides and kale 57.
In 2006, Dole recalled bagged baby spinach after multiple E. coli illnesses associated with the vegetable made their way across the country.
Dirty: Grapes (imported)
These tiny fruit have extremely thin skins, allowing for easy absorption of pesticides. And think twice before buying imported wine. The grapes that go into the wine could be coming from vineyards that use too many pesticides.
Have you ever indulged in a potato skin at your favorite restaurant? You might want to think twice before eating the skin. This spud was highly laced with pesticides—36, according to the EWG—that are needed to prevent pests and diseases.
Cherries, like blueberries, strawberries, and peaches, have a thin coating of skin—often not enough to protect the fruit from harmful pesticides.
Research showed cherries grown in the U.S. had three times the amount of pesticides as imported cherries. Because cherries contain ellagic acid, an antioxidant that neutralizes carcinogens, it’s worthwhile to buy organic or seek imported ones.
Onions may be painful to cut (don’t forget the tissues!), but they are at the top of the cleanest fruits and vegetables list. They don’t require large amounts of pesticides because threats from pests are low. And, according to EWG, no samples were found to have more than one pesticide.
Asparagus also has fewer threats from insects and disease, so not many pesticides are needed. According to the EWG, 90% or more of the samples tested had no detectable pesticide residues, so enjoy this spring vegetable in these delicious recipes.
Its thick skin provides a natural defense against chemicals, pests, and diseases. Not a lot of spraying is required to grow eggplant, so it’s virtually a clean and safe choice.
Avocado’s thick skin acts as a barrier to chemicals. Washing the outside skin before cutting also can prevent any dirt or residue from getting to the fleshy insides.
Almost nothing can get past this prickly fruit. A pineapple has fewer than 10% of detectable pesticides, according to the EWG, so don’t hold back while indulging in this exotic fruit. Still, just like an avocado (and most produce), the pineapple should be rinsed before slicing and dicing.