Green is definitely not always green! Summer has arrived with its bounty of fresh vegetables and fruits readily available in grocery stores, farmers markets and roadside stands. It is important to be a savvy consumer and understand that not all vegetables and fruits are produced in an eco-friendly manner and can be harmful to you and your family. Many growers use harmful pesticides to destroy insects that attack crops and despite washing, residual amounts of these residuals still may be significant. The Environmental Working Group has composed a shopper’s guide for produce which lists the 2012 “dirty dozen”, as well as the “clean fifteen”. This guide lists the products which should be purchased organically, as well as the products which largely are domestic or imported. This year’s “dirty dozen” list includes apples, bell peppers, blueberries (domestic), celery, cucumbers, grapes, lettuce, nectarines (imported), peaches, potatoes, spinach and strawberries. Green beans and kale made the list because the pesticide residues found on these vegetables are or great concern.
The “clean fifteen” products that have the lowest pesticide residue includes asparagus, avocado, cabbage, cantaloupe (domestic), corn, eggplant, grapefruit, kiwi, mangoes, mushrooms, onions, pineapples, sweet peas, sweet potatoes and watermelon.
Of note, particular concern should be paid to pesticide residuals in vegetables and fruits used for baby food. For the first time since starting the pesticide testing program of food, the USDA paid particular attention to the presence of pesticides in pears, green beans and sweet potatoes used in baby food. The results showed that green beans were positive for five pesticides including organophosphates, which have been connected with neurodevelopment problems. The test results on pears have shown large degrees of contamination. Sweet potatoes have fared very well in these tests, showing no signs of pesticides. There is a major concern associated with the pesticide iprodione. It has been labeled by the Environment Protection Agency as a probable human carcinogen and its use in pears prepared as baby food is a clear violation, however, it has shown up in several samples.
It is very important that consumers educate themselves on safe and unsafe vegetables and fruits. It may be difficult to eat organically all the time because the cost can be prohibitive, but with a little bit of research, it is possible to identify fruits and vegetables that have the lowest pesticide residues. A good place to start is the Environmental Working Group’s 2012 Shoppers Guide to Pesticides in Produce.
Remember: Not all green is green. So study green, live green, be green.