Fruits and vegetables are important to a healthy diet, but the annual report from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) that ranks fruits and vegetables based on levels of pesticides may leave you confused about what is healthiest to eat.
The EWG list is called the Dirty Dozen and includes fruits and vegetables considered "dirty" because of high levels of pesticide residue. At the top of the list? Strawberries, for the second year in a row.
The Dirty Dozen:
- Bell Peppers
- Cherry Tomatoes
The U.S. Department of Agriculture found that nearly 30 percent of strawberries tested contained the residue of more than 10 pesticides, and the dirtiest were linked to 21 pesticides.
Rinsing fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating used to be the best advice, but the EWG report also states that strawberries were "most likely to be contaminated with pesticide residues even after they are picked, rinsed in the field and washed before eating.”
Although the statistics sound unnerving, the USDA states that “overall pesticide chemical residues found on the foods tested are at levels below the tolerances established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and do not pose a safety concern.”
Also, the EWG report doesn't contain all bad news. The good news is a list of fruits and vegetables considered lower in pesticide contamination — the Clean Fifteen list.
The Clean Fifteen:
- Sweet Corn
- Frozen Sweet Peas
- Honeydew Melon
Only 1 percent of the avocado samples tested positive for pesticide residue. And not one of the samples from the clean list tested positive for more than four types of pesticides, while a large percentage of pineapples, papayas, mangoes, kiwi and cantaloupes were found to have no detectable pesticide residue.
Still concerned? Experts suggest buying organic fruits and vegetables whenever possible as well as purchasing produce at your local farmers market.