Friday, July 1, 2011

2011 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticide Free Produce

Jennifer Koslo, PhD, RD, CSSD, CPT
FT Faculty
School of Health Sciences

2011 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticide Free Produce
Summertime is here and there are so many varieties of fresh fruits and vegetables available that you almost can’t help but get in your 5 servings each day. If you are lucky enough to have locally, organically grown produce in your area you should definitely take advantage of what summer has to offer. But if you are buying your produce at the local grocery store you may not know how the produce was grown and if it contains pesticide residue or not. And while it would be great if we could all afford to buy 100% of our produce from organic growers, for most people this isn’t feasible economically. So how do you know which foods have the most pesticide residue and which have the least? This is where the Environmental Working Group comes in. They have just recently released the 7th edition of their Shopper’s Guide to Pesticide Free Produce which has updated information on 53 fruits and vegetables. Wow – 53! That should about cover all of the bases. 

Produce is ranked according to how many pesticides are on a peeled and washed sample and the results are based on data collected from the USDA and FDA from 2000 to 2009. You may have even caught the headlines on the news about apples becoming the new number 1 most contaminated type of produce replacing celery from last year. But should you really be concerned about pesticides on your produce when you are already worrying about GMOs, hormones, and antibiotics in your food? You betcha, especially if you are feeding little ones. Children are the most susceptible to the health problems associated with pesticide ingestion since they are developing and growing. The Environmental Protection Agency posts information on its website about the potential health effects of pesticides. Some pesticides contain carcinogens while other have affects on the nervous, hormone, and endocrine systems. Have a look at this graph to see how the levels of pesticides have increased over the years

If you still aren’t convinced, consider this: eating 5 servings of fruits and vegetables from the dirty dozen list would mean ingesting an average of 14 pesticides a day, while eating the same number of servings from the clean 15 list would result in consuming fewer than 2 pesticides a day. I do want to throw in the caveat that it would still be better to eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables that have pesticides on them then to eat none at all, so don’t use this as an excuse to stop eating fresh produce.

To help you make informed decisions about what you buy, you can download a free copy of the guide by going to the Environmental Working Group’s website What I really like about the guide is that you can cut it out and stick it in your wallet or purse for easy reference while you are shopping.

Enjoy the bounties of summer produce and happy eating!


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