The Dirty Dozen Not So Dirty After All

by Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN on November 15, 2018 · 0 comments

Pesticide residue on fruits and vegetables is a big, scary topic filled with emotional reasons why you should or should not buy certain foods. Every year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) publishes the Dirty Dozen, 12 fruits and vegetables they claim have the highest pesticide levels. The 2018 list includes most of the commonly eaten produce in the US – strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, peaches, pears, cherries, grapes, celery, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers and potatoes. They recommend buying organic options for these foods.

Myth: Buying organic fruits and vegetables because you believe they are pesticide free is false. The USDA Pesticide Data Program found that 23% of organic produce had pesticide residues, though none at an unsafe level. Organic produce may have less pesticide residues than conventional foods but in both cases the produce is safe.

Fact: A peer-reviewed analysis (scientific facts judged by outside experts) published in the Journal of Toxicology found the EWG followed no established scientific procedures for developing their Dirty Dozen list and the EWG has never disclosed their methodology for compiling this yearly list. The researchers also showed that a person’s exposure to the 10 most frequently detected pesticides on the EWG’s Dirty Dozen list were at negligible levels. They concluded that substituting organic fruits and vegetables for conventional varieties because of pesticide residue concerns, provided no health benefit.

Bottom line: All health experts universally agree that eating fruits and vegetables every day leads to better health and a longer life. Both organic and conventionally grown fruits and vegetables are healthy choices.

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