Apples are contaminated with pesticides and tops the list of ‘dirty dozen’, while onions are rated as the best among the ‘Clean 15’. The ratings are provided by consumer advocates at the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG), based on the pesticides test conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the FDA.
It is better to avoid exposure; which is much less than the toxic levels. According to a study, conducted by EPA researcher Devon Payne-Sturges, about 40% of children in US have pesticide levels well above this margin of exposure, and this is mostly through fruits and vegetables.
Nonetheless, everyone should eat more fruits and vegetables. EWG advises that one can cut down the exposure drastically (by 92%), by choosing fruits and vegetables from the ‘Clean 15’ produce. Even if you want to have fruits in the Dirty Dozen, it is better to opt for organic varieties. It may not cut the pesticide exposure totally; but could help.
The most troubling news is that pesticide tests were done after carefully washing fruits and vegetables.
The rating system is based on a score given to the fruits and vegetables in six different categories:
- Percentage of samples with detectable pesticide
- Percentage of samples with two or more pesticides
- Average number of pesticides found in a single sample
- Average amount of all pesticides found
- Maximum number of pesticides found in a single sample
- Total number of pesticides in the fruit or vegetable
Harvard researcher Chensheng Lu and colleagues evaluated the amount of pesticides in the foods eaten by children in two U.S cities, Atlanta and Seattle. The results showed that many of the fruits and vegetables eaten by children were on the Dirty Dozen list.
The list of fruits and vegetables with the maximum pesticide scores are:
- Nectarines (imported)
- Grapes (imported)
- Sweet bell peppers
- Blueberries (domestic)
- Kale/collard greens
The list of fruits and vegetables with the least contamination of pesticides includes:
- Sweet corn
- Sweet peas
- Cantaloupe (domestic)
- Sweet potatoes