Beware the Poison Apple

June 14, 2011 · 24 comments

apples, produce. organic apples

The Environmental Working Group (EWG)  an advocacy nonprofit, just published their updated list  of the pesticide laden “dirty dozen” and the better “clean fifteen” list of conventional fruits and vegetables for 2011. Of the dirty dozen, apples are at the top — the worst in pesticide residues.

Next are celery, strawberries, peaches and spinach. Of the “clean” group, onions are first, followed by sweet corn (however, I would not eat corn that is not organic as it is most likely GM), pineapples, avocado and asparagus.

For the complete 2011 Shopper’s Guide from Environmental Working Group, click here.

They found that you could actually reduce your exposure to pesticide residues by over 90% if you buy only from the clean 15 list. If you are following the new “My Plate” suggestions by the USDA, and filling your plate with lots of fruits and vegetables (5 or more a day) you really have to be very careful of the pesticide exposure.

“Picking five servings of fruits and vegetables from the 12 most contaminated would cause you to consume an average of 14 different pesticides a day…”

The methodology used to determine pesticide contamination, for the Shopper’s Guide, is based on an analysis of 51,000 tests for pesticides conducted by the USDA and the FDA on 53 popular fruits and vegetables. The tests were conducted on produce after it had been rinsed or peeled.

Contamination was measure in six different ways:

  • Percent of samples tested with detectable pesticides
  • Percent of samples with two or more pesticides
  • Average number of pesticides found on a single sample
  • Average amount (level in parts per million) of all pesticides found
  • Maximum number of pesticides found on a single sample
  • Total number of pesticides found on the commodity

This seems to be a thorough measure of the many different pesticide chemicals that may be used. The produce was then ranked according to the six scores each type of produce received and then normalized on a 1-100 scale with 100 being the highest.

The ranking reflects the overall pesticide load on these common fruits and vegetables without regard to risk. Since some pesticides are clearly linked to cancer or nervous system toxicity, and others are not (or not yet) the ranking reflects the chemical load which encompasses the amounts and the different types of pesticides.

Certainly, it is best to buy organic when you can and when it is available. However, why spend the extra bucks for organic when you can save some money by buying high on the list of the “clean fifteen.”

Another alternative is to grow your own organic vegetables — but since I am a suburban forager in the northeast, I can only grow a small amount of seasonal vegetables which leaves me foraging in the stores for the rest of the year! This list really helps!

Photo credit: Mel Rowling

This post is linked to: What’s Cooking Wednesday, What’s on the Menu, Gluten-Free Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday, Healthy 2Day Wednesday, Foodie Wednesday, Full Plate Thursday, Creative Juice Thursday, Frugal Follies, Turning the Table Thursday, Simple Lives Thursday, Pennywise Platter, Fight Back Friday, Beware the Poison Apple, Friday Favorites, Foodie Friday, Fun with Food Friday, Friday Food, My Meatless Monday, Midnight Maniac, Sugar-Free Sunday, Monday Mania, Meatless Monday, Melt in Your Mouth Monday, Mangia Monday, Weekend Carnival, Made From Scratch Tuesday, Tuesday at the Table, Delectable Tuesday Blog Hop, Tempt my Tummy Tuesday, Mouthwatering Monday, Traditional Tuesday, Tasty Tuesday, Tuesday Tasty Tidbits, Tasty Tuesday, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday


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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Alison June 15, 2011 at 6:39 am

Good point about the new my plate. They are making it harder and harder for the average person to eat ‘healthy’ according to their standards. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables but expose yourself to all these chemicals! thanks for the post!


Judy@Savoring Today June 15, 2011 at 8:01 am

Thanks for the update. Strawberries are the hardest for me to leave behind if they are not organic when in season…gotta get better will power there!


Jill June 15, 2011 at 8:43 am

Hi Alison,
Thanks for your comments. Yes, they seem to turn a deaf ear to the problems with the pesticides and GMO’s in the conventional produce available. Especially for children and pregnant women.


Jill June 15, 2011 at 8:45 am

Hi Judy,
I know what you mean about the strawberries. We have a farm stand here that is currently selling fresh picked from Long Island. It’s really hard to pass those up! Even the organic strawberries are not as fresh and sweet… :(


Bibi June 15, 2011 at 11:43 pm

I live in a farming community surrounded by orchards, fields and vineyards. There is more and more farmers turning their farms into organic , but there is still lots that use tons of chemicals to get the most money for their crops….that’s what it comes down to ….making money farming.

As much as I understand about making money and taking care of family I also see my neighbor farmers spraying their orchards and vineyards in heavy protective suits with helmets and masks (to close to my house) that’s when I realize how bad the pesticides must really be.


Jill June 16, 2011 at 6:22 am

Hi Bibi,
Thanks for your comments. For years farmers and their workers did not wear protective gear and the rate of neurological diseases in that group was very high (like Parkinson’s). Unfortunately protective gear does not protect the soil and earth and that is one of the reason’s why we have the health crisis that we have today.


Beth June 16, 2011 at 8:20 am

Thanks for this thought-provoking article!
To healthier eating, Beth


Jill June 16, 2011 at 9:41 am

Hi Beth,
Thanks for your comments. Your garden is absolutely beautiful. I have a lot perennials and annuals in large pots as well. Some look just like yours!


Hannah K. June 16, 2011 at 4:17 pm

I’m glad they updated the list, carrying it into the grocery store is so helpful.
One good thing about having to eat organic apples is their flavor is so much better.


Jill June 16, 2011 at 7:03 pm

Hi Hannah,
Yes, I find the list very helpful.


Michelle @ Simplify, Live, Love June 16, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Thanks for this information. I have yet to read EWG’s pesticide information but will be going there next. I recently blogged about their 2011 Sunscreen Guide.

I’m curious if the results change at all if the produce receives more than just a rinse. What about soaking in vinegar or using a veggie wash before peeling?

I have a large organic garden and every time I read something like this, it gets bigger!!

Thanks, Michelle


Jill June 16, 2011 at 7:04 pm

Hi Michelle,
I wish I had more room for a larger garden. I don’t know if the results would change – that would be helpful information.


Miz Helen June 17, 2011 at 9:01 am

Very interesting information about the apples, I always buy organic, but wash, wash, wash. Great photo. Thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday and hope to see you next week!
Miz Helen


Jill June 17, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Hi Miz Helen,
Thanks for your comments!


Heather June 20, 2011 at 6:34 pm

At least according to Food, Inc., non-sweet corn is likely to be GMO if not organic–so make sure those are organic tortilla chips. But there are no GMO sweet corns or popcorns currently on the market.


angie June 21, 2011 at 11:49 am

I saw this on the news and it is a bit scarey thanks for sharing your post


Rachel June 22, 2011 at 12:05 am

Jill, thnaks for linking up 3 very interesting posts to Healthy 2day Wednesdays last week! I ALWAYS learn a lot from you. I know how good salmon is for you but I just can’t get into it, maybe one day! The fish roe article was great! and this one was a great refresher! We usually stick to the dirty dozen and clean 15! This weeks link up is now open! :)


Jill June 22, 2011 at 6:11 am

Hi Rachel,
Thanks for your comments!


Barb @ A Life in Balance June 22, 2011 at 8:14 am

I’d love a guide that pulled together the clean list and the GMO info. Food Renegade just had a good post on avoiding the GMO’s.


Jill June 22, 2011 at 9:24 am

Hi Barb,
That was a good post at Food Renegade! And a combination list would certainly be helpful! Most of the GM produce at this point is soy, corn, cottonseed, canola (for oils), sugar beets and crookneck squash — so these thing I would avoid unless they are organic. Of course soy I would avoid unless t it fermented. The worst is corn and it is found in many packaged foods. So best to avoid packages foods anywa,y as you know.


cheerful June 27, 2011 at 9:15 pm

good post as always, thanks for sharing your list! visiting from tuesday’s tasty tidbits. have a great week. :)


Jill June 28, 2011 at 6:12 am

Hi Cheerful,
Thanks for your comments!


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