This Shopping Guide Will Tell You When You Need to Buy Organic and When It’s Okay To Buy Conventionally-Grown Produce

This weekend, as you head towards your local market to stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables for the week, be sure to take along the Environmental Working Group’s new Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. It contains updated information on 45 popular fruits and veggies and their total pesticide loads. Knowing what the EWG classifies as “dirty” or “clean” will tell you when it’s important to splurge on organic produce.

For example, would you believe that Apples lead the EWG’s well known “Dirty Dozen,” which lists foods most commonly contaminated with pesticides? Celery, sweet bell peppers, peaches and strawberries are also on this “worst offenders” list. That’s disappointing to say the least. But on the brighter side, onions, sweet corn, pineapples, avocados and cabbage lead the list of “clean,” conventionally grown fruits and vegetables that are likely to be lowest in pesticide residue.

Pesticides in Foods, Dirty Dozen list, Clean Fifteen List

The Shopper’s Guide, including these lists, can be downloaded as a PDF from the EWG website, making it easy to fold up and keep in your wallet; or you can download an app for your smart phone from Apple ITunes. You can see the full ranking of 45 fruits and veggies here.

If you think buying organic is a waste of money, consider these test findings by the USDA and FDA as late as 2010:

  • 68 percent of food samples tested, after being washed and peeled, had detectable pesticide residues
  • 98 percent of conventional apples have detectable levels of pesticides
  • 78 different pesticides were found on lettuce samples
  • Every single nectarine that the USDA tested had measurable pesticide residues and,
  • 13 different pesticides were measured on a SINGLE sample each of celery and strawberries

According to a statement on the EWG website, even the cleanest fruits and vegetables had some pesticides detected; “Of the “Clean Fifteen” vegetables, no single sample had more than five different chemicals, and no single fruit sample had more than five types of pesticides detected.  (And that’s the good news!)

Will the EWG’s “Dirty Dozen” or “Clean Fifteen” lists change the way you shop for fruits and vegetables?