- Food and Cooking
The Dirty Dozen List: Foods to Buy Organic
Buy Organic and Buy Smart
With the release of the "new" Dirty Dozen List, we have a new selection of foods to buy organic whenever possible. Some produce here has made the cut many times, while other types are new faces on the list. While it's always a good idea to support certified organic growers, most of whom are small and many of whom live local to your grocery store or farmers market, the cost of doing so often proves prohibitive. Most of us have good intentions but just can't make the budget work.
This list presents an opportunity for us to do something right without breaking our budgets to do so. Use this list to stock your kitchen smart: with the very best and healthiest that nature has to offer.
The Dirty Dozen List
Apples top the list this year, but the fruit is no stranger to the Dirty Dozen List. Because of the relative monoculture in apple farming, which makes apples particularly vulnerable to adapting bugs and blights, big growers rely on heavy pesticide sprays to keep the apples safe. The thin apple skin holds onto those heavy pesticides. Worse, these pesticides have a way of sneaking into things you might not expect, like applesauce. So when you buy organic foods, consider taking apples seriously. Buy everything organic that features apples as a primary ingredient.
The problems with celery are these: it's unlike all the other members of the Dirty Dozen List, which makes it difficult for people to remember it, it has more than 60 pesticides, and you can't skin a celery to get rid of all that chemical nonsense. So, those who choose not to go organic on this vegetable will be getting a full dose of the bad stuff, from stem to stalk.
Fungus is the bane of strawberries, and fungus requires heavy pesticide spraying to kill it. Farmers rely on pesticides to keep their crop safe, but unfortunately, most of those pesticides make their way to the grocery store on the berries. Certified organic growers tend to produce strawberries in smaller crops, using alternative methods to keep the fungus from the berries. The result is usually smaller, sweeter, redder strawberries.
Peaches, like apples, have skin highly-susceptible to pesticide retention. And like apples, peeling will reduce some of the exposure, but not without removing most of the nutrition, too. Peaches and apples have trade positions for the number one spot on the Dirty Dozen List in the past, so buyers should not skimp on going organic with this soft, sweet fruit.
It's hard to believe that this delicious, delicate leafy green has nearly 50 pesticides, but no other leafy green has as great a risk of bringing pesticides to your plate as spinach. Sadly, not even frozen spinach is safe. For those who love to add a little spinach to salads, dinner, smoothies, or sandwiches, they should add spinach to their organic shopping list, too.
6. Nectarines (imported)
Domestically-grown nectarines don't score as high for pesticide contamination, but imported nectarines certainly do. In fact, imported nectarines are among the worst fruit offenders. In a pinch, buy domestic, but do be careful: even domestic nectarines can carry as many as 33 different pesticides.
7. Grapes (imported)
The thin skin of grapes makes them no match for the variety of pesticide sprays they receive in the vineyard. And like apples and peaches, this contamination extends to everything made with inorganic grapes, including raisins. There's good news for grape lovers, however: organic, domestic grapes do not tend to cost much more in many parts of the country.
8. Sweet Bell Peppers
Sweet bell peppers make the list for their high pesticide residue. Nearly 50 different types of pesticide show up on all the colors of these sweet peppers. Many certified organic growers produce bell peppers, however, and those buying organic should have no difficulty sourcing them in most parts of the country.
Unfortunately, the great potato is also a great offender for carrying pesticides. The potato doesn't always make the Dirty Dozen List, but that hardly makes it safe. Most of the pesticides hide in the peel, however, which means that many products produced with potatoes, like frozen fries, will have much less contamination.
10. Blueberries (domestic)
Blueberries are among the worst offenders on the market with more than 50 pesticides. Unfortunately, frozen blueberries retain only slightly less of the bad stuff. However, organic buyers should have no difficulty locating it in frozen and fresh organic form throughout the country.
What makes lettuce such a dirty member of the Dirty Dozen List is both its thinness and high water content. As a result of these factors, contaminated lettuce will have no clean parts. Tip: organic lettuce may have a few harmless little garden bugs tucked within the leaves, so be sure to give it a thorough rinse before using. A lettuce spinner makes this chore simple and fast.
12. Kale or Collard Greens
Kale (or "collard greens") doesn't always make the list because it is much hardier than lettuce or spinach and holds up better to pests. However, in recent years, farmers have increased pesticide usage. That increase has put kale on the Dirty Dozen List for yet another year for the second year in a row. As with lettuce, those buying organic kale should give it a good rinse before using.
Smart, Healthy Living
Buying organic produce doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg, especially if we buy judiciously. By avoiding the worst offenders, we take leaps and bounds in removing pesticides from our diet. At the same time, we support certified organic growers, many of whom pursue sustainable, environmentally-conscious approaches to food production.
- EWG's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides - Methodology
Heres the methodology behind EWG's downloadable Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce. Shop smart and know why.
- EWG's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides - The List
Find out what to buy organic and why - with EWGs 2011 Shoppers Guide to Pesticides in Produce. We rank 53 popular fruits and vegetables based on their total pesticide loads.