As the biggest season for fresh fruits and vegetables rolls across the country, the Environmental Working Group has finally released The 2011 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, which updates consumers on the total pesticide loads found in conventional produce on a list more commonly known as the “Dirty Dozen.”
The report is being released so late in the year because of an influx of comments by environmentalists and the produce industry that delayed the USDA from finally releasing the pesticide data. Among others, the national produce trade group, the United Fresh Produce Association, opposed the lists put forth by EWG, and a group formerly known as the Agricultural Insecticide and Fungicide Association (that has recently rebranded itself as “CropLife America”) was largely invested in seeing the risks associated with eating highly sprayed foods downplayed.
Now in its 7th edition, the EWG’s “Dirty Dozen” has new information on 53 fruits and vegetables collected from USDA tests over the course of the last decade. They rank produce safety by weighing six factors on clean and peeled samples to determine pesticide exposure risks.
The biggest change on the 2011 edition is the appearance of apples at the top of the most-contaminated list, jumping up 3 spots since last year. The USDA’s testing found pesticides in more than 98 percent of samples. Cilantro appears on the list for the first time after it became the first herb tested by the USDA, which revealed more than 30 unapproved pesticides on nearly half of the samples. Newcomers also include green onions and cranberries. According to the EWG website, “Celery, spinach, sweet bell peppers, potatoes, lettuce and greens (kale and collards) are the vegetables most likely to retain pesticide contamination.”
On the “Clean 15″ side, mushrooms make their first appearance, with onions, sweet corn, asparagus, sweet peas, eggplant, cabbage and sweet potatoes least likely to contain pesticide residue.
To avoid the risk of contamination, the EWG recommends opting for organic whenever possible, especially for the “Dirty Dozen.” Pesticide exposure has been linked to a number of health problems including neurological disorders, birth defects, infertility and certain types of cancer.
To view the entire list, please visit the EWG website.
Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger