Complaints haven’t been all about MyPlate (see above). The EWG has also been taken to task by some after their release of the latest edition of their list of produce with the most pesticide residue, the “Dirty Dozen.” The basic gripe is that they’re unduly scaring people, which may make them avoid eating enough vegetables and fruit for good health.
But the guide says nothing at all about avoiding foods. Rather, it encourages us to buy organic versions of the Dirty Dozen. And right next to it is the “Clean Fifteen”: produce that’s typically low in pesticide residue. It’s a way of helping shoppers prioritize. After all, in some areas and for those with a limited budget, buying organic can be expensive. Guides such as this can help you make your dollar go further.
You can download a PDF of the current guide here.
Pesticides are substances designed to kill things. They are toxic by nature. They have been linked to neurological disorders, cancer, hormone disruption, skin problems and other health issues. Yet critics insist that the amount we get through food is so small, you’d have to eat more than physically possible in order for it to hurt you. This seems disingenuous. As the Pesticide Action Network notes,
Pesticides can have a cumulative “toxic loading” effect both in the immediate and long term, and each person accumulates and responds to chemicals in a way that is biochemically and biographically unique. From birth, we build up a chemical “body burden” that reflects a combination of childhood and workplace exposures, pesticide residues on food, chemicals in home and personal care products and the quality of air and water in our communities.
You can learn much more about the problems with pesticides on PAN’s website.
That said, it is important to remember that “organic” doesn’t necessarily equal “pesticide-free.” Believe it or not, the USDA allows the use of some pesticides – even chemical ones – on organic crops. If you don’t know whether they’ve been used on your food and are concerned about residues, you can still play it safe by washing the food using the cleansing methods described in our article on food safety.