Environmental Working Group releases new 'Dirty Dozen' list

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Consumers shopping in the produce section at the grocery store are faced with a choice: dish out more money for organic fruits and vegetables, or stick to conventionally grown produce to save a buck (or two). The Environmental Working Group's annual Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce uses data from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help you make that decision by identifying which fruits and vegetables are most (and least) likely to have pesticide residue on them when they make it to the grocery store.

Pesticides are used in conventional farming to protect crops from things like insects and molds, but exposure to these substances through food, soil, water, or air can lead to all kinds of health risks, especially for pregnant women and children. Some pesticides are also quite harmful to the environment. The EWG found at least one pesticide on 63% of the fifty-three samples they analyzed for the Shopper's Guide, and 10% of those samples had five or more different pesticides.

Organic fruits and vegetables are grown without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, genetic engineering, radiation, or sewage sludge (yuck!). Buying organic produce reduces the risk of pesticide residues and supports environmentally responsible farming practices. But for a lot of people, buying organic all the time is just too expensive.

So when you're making the decision whether to fork over the extra cash for an organic version of your favorite fruit or vegetable, consult the EWG's list below. If the item in question is one of the "dirty dozen," buy organic. If it's one of the "clean fifteen," least likely to be contaminated, you can feel more comfortable opting for a conventionally grown version.

"Dirty Dozen" 2011

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

"Clean Fifteen" 2011

1. Onions
2. Sweet corn
3. Pineapples
4. Avocado
5. Asparagus
6. Sweet peas
7. Mangoes
8. Eggplants
9. Cantaloupe (domestic)
10. Kiwi
11. Cabbage
12. Watermelon
13. Sweet potatoes
14. Grapefruit
15. Mushrooms

Meghan Joyce | Facebook
Meghan has been a vegan for a few months and blogs about it at MeghanTheVeghan.blogspot.com. She's a PhD student in musicology, an opera singer, and a yoga enthusiast who loves eating and loves the world.


Photo credit:cc:flickr.com/photos/22280677@N07

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