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New Dirty Dozen: 12 Fruit and Vegetables to Always Buy Organic, Plus the Clean 15

July 24th, 2012
Updated 11/02/2012 at 4:03 pm
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fruitandvegetablessell 235x147 New Dirty Dozen: 12 Fruit and Vegetables to Always Buy Organic, Plus the Clean 15

For the eighth year in a row, the Environmental Watch Group (EWG) has published an updated ‘shopper’s guide’ based on a comprehensive analysis of government pesticide testing data of 45 different fruit and vegetables. The guide includes the ‘dirty dozen:’ the twelve foods most commonly contaminated with pesticides, as well as the ‘clean fifteen:’ the fifteen least contaminated foods.

This year the dirty dozen also includes a ‘plus’ category, warning about two foods containing particularly concerning organophospates, insecticides that are known reproductive and neurotoxins. The use of organophosphates have been significantly reduced in the past decade, but is yet to be banned, and this year, a number of crops still tested positive. The journal Environmental Health Perspectives contains 25 articles published in the past week analyzing and discussing the dangers or organophosphates in our food supply.

Also new this year, researchers investigated the pesticide content of 190 samples of baby food, with rather alarming results.

As the EWG simply and frankly reminds us, ‘Pesticides are toxic by design. They are created expressly to kill living organisms — insects, plants, and fungi that are considered “pests.” Many pesticides pose health dangers to people. These risks have been established by independent research scientists and physicians across the world.” The U.S. and international government agencies have linked pesticides to health problems spanning brain and nervous system toxicity, cancer, hormonal disruption and skin, eye and lung irritation. However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under pressure from The American Crop Protection Association, largely representative of the pesticide industry, has failed to apply adequate protective measures in regulating our food supply. One might well ask whether it is wiser to protect a country’s crops or its population.

The Dirty Dozen

Without further ado, the dirty dozen:

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Sweet bell peppers
  4. Peaches
  5. Strawberries
  6. Nectarines (imported)
  7. Grapes
  8. Spinach
  9. Lettuce
  10. Cucumbers
  11. Blueberries (domestic)
  12. Potatoes

Plus 2 more to add to the dirty dozen:

  1. Green beans
  2. Kale/Collard Greens

Going into a little more detail for the dirty dozen, 100 percent of imported nectarines tested positive for pesticides, as well as 98% of apples and 96% of plums. Grapes had 15 pesticides in a single sample, while blueberries and strawberries each had 13. As an entire category, grape samples contained 64 different pesticides; bell peppers had 88 different residues, cucumbers 81 and lettuce 78.

The Clean Fifteen

And the clean fifteen:

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

Highlights of the clean fifteen include pineapples, in which fewer than 10% of samples contained pesticides, mangoes and kiwis, both of which were completely free of pesticides more than 75% of the time, and watermelon and domestic cantaloupe over 60% of the time. Among vegetables, no samples of sweet corn and onions had more than one pesticide and more than 90% of cabbage, asparagus, sweet peas, eggplant and sweet potato samples contained no more than one pesticide.

One additional concern to consider: sweet corn, although it may contain less pesticide residues, is quite commonly genetically modified in the U.S. While genetically modified organisms (GMO) are banned or significantly restricted in Australia, Japan and throughout the European Union, the industry is still at large in the U.S., and no labeling is required by the federal government. For this reason, it is recommended that sweet corn consumption also be limited to organic.

Among baby food, green beans and pears were especially disturbing: almost 10% of green beans contained the organophosphate methamidiphos in amounts that could easily increase risk for brain and nervous system damage in infants consuming a four-ounce serving of green beans on a regular basis. 92% of pear samples tested positive for at least one pesticide and over a quarter of samples contained five or more, including iprodione, categorized by the EPA as a probable human carcinogen, and not registered for use on pears. In fact, the presence of iprodione in pears of any kind constitutes a violation of FDA regulations and the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

While there is no question that Americans need to eat more fruits and vegetables, it’s worth taking an extra step to make sure that produce is delivering the nutrition it’s supposed to, and nothing it’s not. Pause for a moment. Want some neurotoxins with that salad? I didn’t think so.

Additional Sources:

Environmental Working Group

Duke Law Journal

United States Census Bureau

From around the web:

  • kitokid

    Thanks for your marvelous posting…

  • Mari

    The list provided above is alright but hardly a comprehensive list in regard to all fruits and vegetables available throughout the world. Perhaps the writer of this article had some particular bias or lack of time to provide a more comprehensive list. Just like everything else in this world food is ruled by monetary systems and structures in which large corporations e.g. Monsanto have much more power and influence. The actions of large corporations is not going to be greatly changed by choices individuals make in regard to what food they buy and eat.I do agree that we all need to put more thought into which food products we purchase and eat. However what is urgently needed is those who are in the position to make big changes in regard to food supplies across the world to start make responsible ethical decisions which are in fact ruled by such ethics which will serve the interests of all people regardless of their purchasing power and also to be beneficial to the physical health of the majority of people in regard to promoting healthy food production and supply. We all need to eat that is a fact, it is shameful that to many people in so called "high" places choose to forget this fact. It can be clearly seen that many people who are the decision makers for large corporations do not take into account the long term consequences of their decisions and the actions which effect others and a good example of this is in the field of food production and supply. For example from what I have gathered they really do not know if G.M.O. is truly safe and in fact there has been many studies to show that in fact it causes many health defects.The issue of food and how it is produced and consumed is an extremely important issue which effects every human and most other life forms who are all an integral part of the whole ecosystem of this planet.However this list is a good easy list to comprehend and consequently I have shared it on Facebook.

  • itsmeman

    i don't understand why the list of fruits and veggies with pesticides is so vague.

    'sweet' bell pepper. imo all colors of bell pepper are sweet…so is it ALL of them?

    and lettuce..wth??? c'mon!! JUST lettuce? there are different kinds. are you telling us all that your list means ALL types of lettuce?

    you were a bit specific with the nectarines but nothing else. what's up with that??

    • Anonymous

      All bell peppers are actually the same, it just depends on when they are picked. They are first green then turn yellow to orange and finally turn red when they are fully ripe.

    • PJS

      I read that the general rule is if the fruit or vegetable is "soft" skinned, you need to get organic…if it has a "tough" or thick skin, it is ok to be non-organic…that would explain why "lettuce"….b/c ALL lettuce is "soft" or thin skinned….and sweet peppers as well.

  • Martin

    There is a simple solution to the pesticide problem in foods. All of our land based foods are grown on demineralized soils. Demineralized soils lead to demineralized plants. Demineralized plants radiate a frequency that attracts pests. Pests locate these plants using there antennae. Once you remineralize your soil plants broadcast an entirely different frequency. This frequency is not attractive to plant pests.

    By this time you are probably wondering if it is this simple why haven't farmers remineralized their soils? That is a good question which demands an answer (and there is an answer) but that is for another time.

    If you are interested in exploring this topic further google William A Albrecht and you can purchase a copy of "Hands on Agronomy" by Neal Kinsey from Acres USA.

    • Frances

      Thanks so much for sharing this information.

  • Brian

    Great artcile for awareness. As much as I hate to ask this for fear of hurting what American farmers are left, do you have a list of the best (cleanest)countries that we import these fruits and veggies from that use the smallest amounts of pesticides?

    • Eddie Becker

      You MUST be US American! That kind of arrogance…

      In fact, you can't import these to the US. That's because no one who has food wants US Dollars, and that is because the US does not make anything anybody needs. And the war option is out of question: the US even didn't 'prevail' in extracting the oil out of Iraq, don't think the US would in a veggy war.

      If you want clean food, you will have to kick ass your own government and megacorps and have it grown @ your home.

  • Eliot W. Collins

    What if fruits and vegetables could be genetically modified so that they would be pest (but not pesticide) resistant? What is the downside to GMO produce that did not require the use of any pesticides at all? Yes, I know there are other options as well.

    • bob

      shut-up you fukkin idiot.

      • itsmeman

        leave it to a 'BOB' to lack the education for such a response

        dude..go be in nature for a while or sumthin'


      • Anonymous

        fuck you bitch i like this article

    • Anonymous

      From what I understand about GMO is that the seed has been made so that it contains pesticides in it. So basicly when you bite into corn although the pesticides aren't on the outside they have been created on the inside. I was told simply that when you take a bite you are eating pesticide. Something like that I think.

    • Eddie Becker

      Dear Eliot,

      the downside is that "pest resistant" GMOs simply generate the same pesticides in their own metabolism, so you will stick to eat these pesticides, not only from the surface of the produce, but from the very substance, that gets poisonous in itself. Furthermore, the resistance genes spread out to other organisms uncontrollably, so even more pesticide is generated in the biosphere. Uncontrollably other species are influenced or go extinct, while the original target pest develps resistance against the pesticide.

  • alex e. ellinnson

    …..I find it very disturbing, that there are non toxic protocols, to achieve the same 'healthy' volumes of ethical harvests for 'us'- the people they accept $$$ from. There is something much more insidious & sinister at hand, in their striving for a world-wide hegemonic control of 'OUR' food & hence our HEALTH. These corporate 'control-freaks' have total world agricultural domination in mind…our old WWI&II friends, the 'old money'elite of the dank & fetid, fascist/genocidal 1% reptilians, that want the world all to themselves & will do ANYTHING however immoral to achieve those ends…Yes…they are trying to poison us all & it has nothing to do with profit margins…but that's just my opinion of the ultimate truth.

    • Anonymous

      this is awesomely good and a little wrong