Image: Environmental Working Group
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has released its 2011 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce. The seventh edition of the guide is a summary of data compiled from US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) research. EWG ranks the produce based on a composite score that balances the number of pesticides present and at what levels.
The results are publicized through the popular "Dirty Dozen" list. While I advocate buying organic produce, sometimes that isn't possible. Keep reading to see which conventional produce you should avoid. Topping off the list this year is apples. USDA numbers show that pesticide residues were present on 98 percent of the over 700 samples tested. Most of the samples are washed and peeled before they are tested, just as they would before before you eat them at home.
The 2011 Dirty Dozen
- Nectarines (imported)
- Grapes (imported)
- Bell Peppers
- Blueberries (domestic)
- Kale/Collard Greens
Cilantro was tested for the first time this year with the samples contained 33 unapproved pesticides on 44 percent of the samples tested. This is the highest percentage of unapproved pesticide on any item included in the guide since EWG started tracking data in 1995. Since cilantro just missed inclusion in the "Dirty Dozen", coming in 13th in the rankings, you can imagine the contamination of the top twelve.
Conversely, the "Clean 15" includes onions, sweet corn, pineapples, avocado, asparagus, sweet peas, mangoes, eggplant, cantaloupe (domestic), kiwi, cabbage, watermelon, sweet potatoes, grapefruit and mushrooms.
EWG includes an explanation on their methodology on the "Dirty Dozen" website, but here is a quick summary of how the produce is ranked.
We rank fruits and vegetables by their likelihood of being consistently contaminated with the greatest number of pesticides at the highest levels.More on Pesticides Pesticides Deform Two More Species of California's Frogs Beekeepers & Activists Demand EPA Remove Pesticide Linked to Bee Deaths Ukraine's Ticking 'Time Bomb': Old Pesticides
We combine six different measures of contamination to come up with composite score for each type of produce:
- Percent of samples tested with detectable pesticides
- Percent of samples with two or more pesticides
- Average number of pesticides found on a sample
- Average amount (level in parts per million) of all pesticides found
- Maximum number of pesticides found on a single sample
- Number of pesticides found on the commodity in total