Are you getting what you paid for when you buy “organic”? Can you trust that a can of black beans from Bolivia or a bag of walnuts labeled “Product of Kazakhstan” or imported soy beans from China are what they claim to be—organic? Read here in NPR’s The Salt about the organic fraud both here at home and abroad.
Meanwhile, buying local produce is often a safer way to go. And certainly some fruits and veggies are dirtier than others. The average potato, for example, has a much higher total weight of pesticides than any other food crop, while celery, cherry tomatoes and sweet bell peppers each tested positive for 13 different pesticides. Here Dr. Andrew Weil lists the dirtiest offenders —those with the highest pesticide load—that make buying the organic versions a worthwhile consideration.
I am pleased to have an ongoing association with the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit organization that advocates for policies that protect global and individual health. Specifically, I help EWG spread the word about one of its most valuable pieces of research – a Shoppers’ Guide to Pesticides in Produce. The 2014 version is based on the results of pesticide tests performed on produce and collected by federal agencies from the past nine years.
Nearly all of the data used took into account how people typically wash and prepare produce – for example, apples were washed and bananas peeled before testing. The following “Dirty DozenPlus” had the highest pesticide load, making them the most important to buy organic versions – or to grow them organically yourself:
- Sweet bell peppers
- Nectarines (imported)
- Cherry tomatoes
- Snap peas (imported)
Plus these which may contain organophosphate insecticides, which EWG characterizes as “highly toxic” and of special concern:
- Hot peppers
- Blueberries (domestic)