A Produce Aisle Dilemma

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Have you ever stood in the grocery store and deliberated between buying the organic or conventional blueberries? I definitely have. Our kids are huge blueberry eaters and so I add up the cost of the number of pints of organic blueberries I need and I swallow hard. And then I pull the Environmental Working Group’s handy list out of my purse and it reminds me why buying organic blueberries whenever possible is an important choice for our family.

So what is this handy list? Each year, the Environmental Working Group – EWG.org – an advocacy nonprofit, releases a list of the 12 fruits and vegetables that are most contaminated with pesticides. They call these The Dirty Dozen. They also release a list of the 15 least contaminated fruit and veggies which they call The Clean 15.

EWG 2011 Shopper's Guide

Click here for a printable version: http://static.ewg.org/reports/2011/foodnews/pdf/2011EWGPesticideGuide.pdf

EWG reports that:“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.” However, choosing foods from the Clean 15 list will reduce the pesticide volume by more than 90 percent. The report is based on data collected by the United States Departure of Agriculture of food samples that often were ready to be eaten (meaning that they had already been peeled or washed as necessary).

There seems to be more concern for pesticide ingestion in two population groups – pregnant women and children. I know that my own kids can consume their body weight in apples, for example, which this year are at the top of the most contaminated list. So it makes sense that their smaller bodies would have a more challenging time dealing with the pesticide load.

So here’s how I recommend you use the list.

  • Keep it in your purse or wallet as a handy reminder for when you are in the produce section.
  • Unless finances are really of no concern, buy conventional produce when it comes to the Clean 15.
  • Save your dollars for organic produce that is on the Dirty Dozen list.
  • If you see a fantastic price on organic anything, buy it. Organic farmers need all the support they can get!

I was recently in Trader Joe’s and the organic avocados were cheaper than the conventional ones. Avocados are on the Clean 15 but I bought the organic ones anyway. Not so for the mangoes…I love seeing those on the Clean 15 list as they are an investment even when they are conventional. For the fruit and veggies that are not on either list, let your individualized finances be your guide.

Most of all – eat those fruit and veggies and enjoy!