Updated: Jul 31, 2022
Sometimes even the most prudent organic consumer may be faced with the dilemma of having to purchase regular conventional produce. Shopping out of season or away from your usual organic retailer can lead to a situation where there is no alternative. But how do you know which foods were grown with the least pesticides, and will washing or peeling them before use help reduce your exposure in any way?
Scientists from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) the USA’s leading exponent of chemical related health issues, tested 43 popular conventional fruits and vegetables looking for traces of pesticide residue. They found soft skinned produce absorbs more pesticides than those with thicker skins, plus produce grown close to the ground tended to pick up more pesticides. They then compiled a list of the 12 worst offenders, nicknamed ‘The Dirty Dozen’.
According to EWG spokesperson, Richard Wiles ‘These (Dirty Dozen) are some of the most contaminated with pesticides. This is why you should buy organic.’ His biggest concern though is for parents. ‘Studies indicate children may be more vulnerable to toxins in pesticides. They’re smaller and they eat more food relative to their size so they get a bigger dose of pesticides.’ said Wiles. ‘Interestingly, washing and peeling did not make much of a difference. All the foods in the study were thoroughly washed before testing.’
My practice is to try to buy in season most of the time and buy organic where possible. This is sometimes difficult if travelling so I stick to the fruit and vegetables that have been grown with the least number of pesticides.
For example, strawberries have been shown to have 20 different pesticides sprayed and used on them.
This is my list of 12 plus from recent research.
1. Apples 1. Asparagus 2. Capsicum 2. Avocados 3. Celery 3. Bananas 4. Cherries 4. Broccoli 5. Chili peppers 5. Cabbage 6. Grapes 6. Cantaloupe 7. Kale 7. Cauliﬂower 8. Lettuce — all types 8. Eggplant 9. Nectarines 9. Grapefruit 10. Peaches 10. Honeydew 11. Pears 11. Kiwi fruit 12. Potatoes 12. Mangos 13. Spinach 13. Onions 14. Strawberries 14. Papaya 15. Tomatoes 15. Pineapple 16. Zucchini 16. Sweet corn 17. Squash 17. Sweet potato
(From the pages of From Cancer to Wellness: the forgotten secrets. A step by step handbook for preventing and surviving cancer).