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Reducing Your Exposure to Pesticides

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is important for optimal health.  Reducing your risk of pesticide exposure is always a good idea, but eating conventionally grown produce is better than eating none at all. With that in mind, here is a handy list to help you determine which fruits and veggies are the most contaminated with pesticide residue—and therefore the most important to buy organic—vs. produce that is the least contaminated. We will also give you some useful tips on how to safely and effectively clean your fruits and veggies. Organic or not, it is best to thoroughly wash your produce!

Pesticides are used to protect valuable crops from disease, weeds, and insect infestation, and to increase food production in order to keep prices low (the reason organic produce often costs more). Fruits and vegetables more prone to disease and insects tend to get more pesticides.  In recent years, the Environmental Protection Agency has been working on restricting the use of the most toxic pesticides, however, they are often still detected on some foods. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recently analyzed residue testing data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to come up with rankings for 48 popular fresh fruits and veggies. Use this list as a reference when shopping for produce, to decide for yourself whether or not you want to choose organic instead.

Fruits and Vegetables with Pesticide Residue (Ranked in Order from Worst to Best)

• Apples

• Strawberries

• Grapes

• Celery

• Peaches

• Spinach

• Sweet Bell Peppers

• Nectarines (imported)

• Cucumbers

• Potatoes

• Cherry Tomatoes

• Hot Peppers

• Blueberries (domestic)

• Lettuce

• Snap Peas (imported)

• Kale / Collard Greens

• Cherries

• Nectarines (domestic)

• Pears

• Plums

• Raspberries

• Blueberries (imported)

• Carrots

• Green Beans

• Tangerines

• Summer Squash

• Broccoli

• Winter Squash

• Green Onions

• Snap Peas (domestic)

• Oranges

• Tomatoes

• Honeydew Melon

• Cauliflower

• Bananas

• Watermelon

• Mushrooms

• Sweet Potatoes

• Cantaloupe

• Grapefruit

• Kiwi


• Asparagus

• Mangoes

• Papayas

• Sweet Peas (frozen)

• Cabbage

• Avocados

• Pineapples

• Onions

• Sweet Corn

Cleaning Your Produce

In addition to pesticides, harmful bacteria can come into contact—through soil, water, and/or handling—and contaminate your fruits and vegetables. That is why it is so important to wash your produce, even if it’s organic! Begin by washing your hands with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds. Cut away any bruised or damaged areas on fruits or veggies, and throw away any produce that is starting to rot.  Rinse your produce under cold running water, even if you plan to peel, or cut away the skin or rind. Otherwise, dirt or bacteria can be transferred from the knife to your produce. If you like, you can buy or make your own fruit and veggie wash to help remove wax and residue. Scrub produce with firm skin, such as melons, potatoes, and cucumbers, with a clean produce brush. Using a clean bowl, soak soft fruits like grapes and berries, and veggies like leafy greens, to dissolve dirt. You can also add a little white vinegar to your water to help remove wax and residue. Drain the water and re-rinse your produce after soaking. Dry your fruits and veggies with a paper towel and enjoy!



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