Every year since 2004, The Environmental Working Group updates their Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™. The guide tests 48 popular fruits and vegetables and ranks them according to their level of pesticide contamination. The 12 fruits and vegetables with the most pesticide residue are termed the Dirty Dozen ™.
The results of more than 35,200 samples tested by the FDA is the foundation for the guide.
The Dirty Dozen ™: 2016
For 2016, the Dirty Dozen™ includes strawberries, apples, nectarines, peaches, celery, grapes, cherries, spinach, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers.
Different pesticide residues contaminated each food on this list. Their high concentration of pesticides (compared to other produce) confirmed a slot for them on the Dirty Dozen ™ 2016 list.
Should You Purchase Organic Versions of the Dirty Dozen ™ Instead
Dr. Andrew Weil believes that one must eat produce for many of the nutrients that support health. However, the health concerns that pesticides present, especially children and those with existing health issues trouble him.
In animals studies, pesticides disrupted the nervous and endocrine system and enhanced risks of cancer.
If one chooses organic produce, one can avoid the pesticides while obtaining the nutrients.
An Opposing Viewpoint On Dirty Dozen ™
A look at The Environmental Working Group’s methodology reveals that the Dirty Dozen is based on the USDA’s Pesticide Data Program. The USDA samples for pesticides and ranks each fruit or vegetable. Six criteria including the number of different pesticide residues identified and the total amount of detected pesticide determine the ranking.
There is a flaw in EWG’s scoring system—it considers all pesticides equal, regardless of each pesticide’s varying toxicity.
Two food scientists checked EWG methodology and pesticide numbers. The scientists compared the level of pesticides on the Dirty Dozen to the chronic reference dose (the maximum amount one can eat every day and remain safe). This dose is one percent of the amount that animals were able to handle without effects. Not one of the Dirty Dozen exceeded this extremely small dosage. Here is the scientists’ report.
An Opposing Viewpoint on Buying Organic
So why wouldn’t one want to buy organic just to ensure there are no pesticides?
One reason is organic farming is not pesticide free. The list of acceptable chemicals to use includes some relatively harmless substances such as dairy cultures or vitamin B. But some should cause suspicion, such as copper sulfate, elemental sulfur, and borates. One of the acceptable synthetic pesticides used in organic farming are the questionable pyrethrins. The list of acceptable chemicals for organic farming can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations, here.
Should I Avoid All Produce Due to Pesticides
The Dirty Dozen and the Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™ help you decide for yourself where potential hazards can be found. If anything, it will get you to start a garden of your own so you know exactly what is and what isn’t in your fruits and vegetables.