The EWG has released its 2016 Shopper’s Guide, ranking 50 popular fruits and vegetables for pesticides. These are the ones that top their list, plus more on how and why to reduce your pesticide exposure.
You might be familiar with the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG’s) Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists. Updated versions of those lists are also available (here and here). This shopper’s guide is a mega-list that includes even more popular produce items.
One thing that stands about about this year’s list is that they actually ranked 48 fruits and veggies, but the list has 50 items. That’s because they broke out blueberries and snap peas to distinguish between domestic and imported versions. Their analyses revealed very different pesticide results, and they felt that separating them was the best way to go.
It turns out that domestic blueberries are actually worse than imported ones. Domestic blueberries are 14th on the list, and imported blueberries are 19th. The same applied to snap peas. Domestic snap peas were ranked 28 out of 50 on their list, while imported snap peas were 13th.
You can view the list of all 50 rankings on the EWG website, and check out the top 10 most pesticide-heavy crops below.
- sweet bell peppers
These results, of course, don’t mean you should stop eating fruits and veggies. They are just a guide to help you decide which fruits and veggies are most important to buy organic. The lower on the list, the fewer pesticide residues they found.
If organic strawberries and apples are out of reach, for example, there are plenty of fruits toward the bottom of the list that are lower in pesticide residues when you buy conventional. Grapefruit, mango and kiwi are all toward the bottom of the EWG list.
Why choose organic? There’s good evidence that people who eat more organic produce have fewer pesticides in their systems. A 2015 study from Boise State University looked at 4,500 people’s diets and found that the people who reported eating more organic produce had fewer organophosphates in their systems.
Organophosphates are a common pesticide used in conventional agriculture that are bad news for our health, especially the health of young children. We’ve talked here at Care2 before about how farmers exposed to high levels of organophosphates had higher rates of depression and suicide. You’re not going to reach that level of exposure by eating strawberries, but kids are much more sensitive to pesticides. A 2014 study linked exposure to organophosphates during pregnancy to increased risk of having a child with autism spectrum disorders. Organophosphates may also be linked to ADHD in children.
The EWG shopper’s guides have received some flack. Skeptics of the list say that the EWG calls out produce with pesticide levels far below the threshold for safety. However, if pesticide-free options are better overall for the planet, the farmers and our bodies, why not buy clean produce when you can?