The Dirty Dozen: What You Should Know About Fruits & Veggies
Written by Robyn O’Brien
Have you ever wondered how many chemicals and pesticides are sprayed on your food? I hadn’t either, at least, not until I saw a film called The Future of Food. In the documentary, a little boy bites into a giant, red strawberry (as my children have so often done), and then the film cuts to the strawberry field, where farm workers, wearing biohazard suits that cover every inch of their bodies, are fumagating strawberries with chemicals.
And I stopped and thought, “I have no idea what is being done to my children’s fruits and vegetables before they get to our dinner table”. So I dug into the research to learn more.
And thankfully, at the time, I came across a report called “The Dirty Dozen”. It was a list of the most polluted fruits and veggies on the market. And in all candor, it caused complete heartache to read it. It listed some of my children’s favorite foods: apples, strawberries and grapes and also highlighted a study by Harvard School of Public Health that found children exposed to pesticides had a higher risk of developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
And as I struggled with the thought that I had unknowingly exposed my children to potentially toxic doses of pesticides, I also realized that this knowledge was a gift, perhaps one of the greatest that any mother could be given, as now I could make an informed choice when feeding my family and exposing them to things that might cause severe harm.
So this week, when the seventh annual report was released that analyzed government data on 53 fruits and vegetables, identifying which have the most and least pesticides after washing and peeling, I once again found myself enormously grateful for the organization providing this detailed report, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) for their dedicated efforts to bring transparency to an all-too-polluted food supply for the sake of our health.
In their list of “The Dirty Dozen”, they provide the names of the produce found to be highest in pesticides. According to USA Today, “rankings reflect the amounts of chemicals present on food when it is eaten. Most samples were washed and peeled before testing”. And this year, apples moved up three spots from last year, because 92% of apples contain two or more pesticides.
The Dirty Dozen
6. Nectarines (imported)
7. Grapes (imported)
8. Sweet bell peppers
12. Kale/collard greens
And those grapes and strawberries that kids love? Unfortunately, they are still being sprayed with record amounts of toxins.
It may not be what you want to hear if you’ve got picky eaters like me, but when it comes to protecting the health of our families, knowledge is power. And with this information, you will have the power to protect your loved ones. So take a look and share the list with those that you love. And for those who cannot afford organic food which by law are not allowed to be produced with the use of these toxic chemicals, the lists offers alternatives like pineapples, the top fruit on the clean list.
The Clean Fifteen
6. Sweet peas
9. Cantaloupe (domestic)
13. Sweet potatoes
* Because the majority of the corn in the United States has been genetically modified, and in some cases engineered to produce its own insecticidal toxins, look for non-genetically modified corn products.
Remember, change doesn’t happen overnight. Just as you didn’t wean a child from a sippy cup or potty train them in a day, you can begin to protect the health of your family by taking “Baby Steps” and simply doing one thing. And picking up a pineapple at the grocery store instead of a bag full of apples loaded with chemicals, just might be a great place to start.
To learn more and see the complete list and rankings of 53 fruits and veggies, please visit Food News at the Environmental Working Group.