Buying organic produce has become an increasingly popular shopping habit of consumers in the recent years. Although, organic produce is priced distinctly higher than their non-organic counterparts, buying organic produce comes with its benefits. By shopping organic, one avoids ingesting pesticides that are found in non-organic produce—the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has estimated that individuals can reduce their exposure to pesticides by 80% by eating organic produce.
Avoiding the consumption of pesticides is important to the health of you and your family. According to laboratory studies conducted by the EPA, long-term exposure to pesticides via consumption can cause birth defects, nerve damage and cancer, depending on the type and amount of pesticide exposures.
To help educate consumers as what to avoid when shopping for non-organic produce, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases the annual Shopper’s Guide to Pesticide in Produce detailing produce that contain the highest amount and lowest amount of pesticide residue.
In government tests conducted by the FDA and USDA and analyzed by the EWG, detectable pesticides were found in approximately 67 percent of these foods after being prepped for cooking (washing and peeling). Every year, the EWG uses the government pesticide-testing data to compile a list of the fruits and vegetables with the greatest amount of pesticide residue and the least amount of pesticide data known as the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen.
The Dirty Dozen is a list of the 12 fruits and vegetables most likely to be contaminated with pesticides. When conventionally grown, the fruits and vegetables collected tested positive for over 47 chemicals.
The most contaminated fruits are apples, strawberries, grapes, peaches and imported nectarines.
The most contaminated vegetables are celery, spinach, sweet bell peppers, cucumbers, potatoes, cherry tomatoes and hot peppers.
In addition, the EWG cautions consumers about conventionally grown summer squash and leafy greens.
On the flipside, here are the Clean Fifteen – the 15 fruits and vegetables possess the lowest amount of pesticides after they had been washed: asparagus, avocado, cabbage, cantaloupe, eggplant, grapefruit, kiwi, mango, mushroom, onion, papaya, pineapple, frozen sweet peas, sweet potatoes.
If you decide to buy non-organic, conventionally grown fruits and vegetables, these are the ones to familiarize yourself with.
Shopping Smarter During Pregnancy
While you want to avoid environmental toxins such as pesticides, the Environmental Working Group emphasizes that the health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh pesticide exposures. It is particularly important for pregnant women to eat generous amounts of fruits and vegetables to ensure the proper intake of vitamins and nutrients for the healthy development of their babies.
That said, use the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen to help inform your shopping decisions. You can lower your pesticide exposures buy choosing organic alternatives for the 12 fruits and vegetables that comprise the Dirty Dozen. Choose the least contaminated fruits and vegetables by using the Clean Fifteen as a guide.
You can use the labeling on produce at the grocery store to help you determine whether a fruit or vegetable is organic or not. The Price Lookup Code, also known as the PLU, on the produce sticker will tell you how the food was grown.
1. Organic: If the PLU code starts with “9” and is comprised of 5 digits, that means that the produce was grown organically and is not genetically modified (non-GMO). Ex. An organically grown banana has the code 94011.
2. Conventional: If the PLU code is comprised of 4 digits, that means the produce was grown conventionally and with the use of pesticides. Ex. A conventionally grown banana has the code 4011.
3. Genetically Modified: If the PLU code starts with “8” and is comprised of 5 digits, that means the produce is genetically modified. Ex. A genetically engineered banana has the code 84011.
We hope these tips help you to make you a smarter shopper! Here’s to healthy eating and healthy families!