2013 “Dirty Dozen” – Foods best as Organic

Apples at Market

Apples at Market

by Catherine Haug, October 8, 2013

Good Housekeeping recently published it’s new “Dirty Dozen” list – foods overly contaminated with pesticide and other chemicals, so that it pays to pay more for Organic. You can read the full report at The Daily Green: The New Dirty Dozen: 12 Foods to Eat Organic, but read on for a summary. Note that many local produce found at Farmers Markets or at your local grocer is raised Organically, even though it may not bear the Organic label, so be sure to inquire.

2013 “Dirty Dozen” Foods to Eat Organic

The following list is from The Daily Green: The New Dirty Dozen: 12 Foods to Eat Organic, with a few of Cat’s notes added.

  1. Apples: more than 40 different pesticides have been detected on apples;
  2. Celery: more than 60 different pesticides found by the USDA on non-Organic celery;
  3. Cherry tomatoes: not only do these routinely test with high levels of pesticides, but commercially grown tomatoes are picked green and never develop the full flavor of a locally-grown, pesticide-free tomato;
  4. Cucumbers: as many as 35 pesticides that remain on the skin, and peeling doesn’t remove all of them;
  5. Grapes (and also raisins): more than 30 pesticides, and many of these penetrate the skin into the fruit;
  6. Hot peppers (pesticide level not quoted);
  7. Nectarines, especially imported ones: as many as 33 pesticides. US-grown typically have fewer than imported ones. Note that peeling may not help as many of the pesticides penetrate the skin.
  8. Peaches: more than 60 pesticides found on fresh peaches (canned versions have less), and like nectarines, peeling may not help as many of the pesticides penetrate the skin;
  9. Potatoes: more than 35 pesticides found by USDA testing. Sweet potatoes are a safer bet, if you cannot afford Organic.
  10. Strawberries: nearly 60 different pesticides found on fresh strawberries (fewer on frozen);
  11. Spinach: nearly 50 different pesticides found on fresh or frozen spinach (fewer on canned);
  12. Sweet bell peppers: nearly 50 different pesticides detected.
  13. Kale: This veggie is so popular that even Organic kale is reasonably priced;
  14. Collard Greens: This veggie is usually only found as Organic at Bigfork’s Harvest Foods;
  15. Zucchini (and other summer squash): not only is this laden with pesticides, but unless it’s Organic, it is probably GMO;
  16. Lettuce greens: More than 50 different pesticides have been found;
  17. Blueberries: more than 50 different pesticides; frozen usually has less. We are fortunate here in the Flathead because we have a local blueberry grower who uses Organic methods: Yellow Bay Gardens.
  18. Fatty meats: “While there are generally no pesticides found in beef muscle, fat is another story. Fewer than a dozen pesticides have been detected in beef fat, but among them are long-lived chemicals that accumulate in human fats just as they do in beef cattle.” Chicken and pork are also on the list.  I highly recommend buying from local ranchers & farmers, so you know how the animals are raised and what they are fed.
  19. Milk: 12 different pesticides found in commercial milk; especially troublesome because milk is a staple of children’s diets. but pesticides aren’t the only problem; many commercial brands feed their dairy animals on GMO corn & soy feed, and almost all are ultra-pasteurized, which greatly diminishes the nutritive value of the milk (see my article Food Safety and Pasteurization for more).  This is one to buy local (to avoid ultra-pasteurization), and Organic.
  20. Coffee: no statistics on this one, but coffee is grown in countries with lax regulations on pesticides. Choose Organic AND Free-Trade, so the farmers get their fair share of the profits.
  21. Wine: like coffee, there are not statistics on wine, but the grapes are grown in countries with lax regulations on pesticides. Plus grapes have been tested to have more than 30 pesticides.
  22. Chocolate: like coffee, there are not statistics on chocolate, “but cocoa beans are grown in across the developing world, sometimes in countries without strict laws governing use of pesticides, worker rights or other factors we’d consider basic in the US.”

To this list I would add the following which are primarily GMO crops (unless organic):

  • Papayas

Check out the Clean 15, a list of produce items that are so low in pesticides that you can choose non-Organic to save money:

  • Onions
  • Sweet Corn
  • Pineapple
  • Avocado
  • Asparagus
  • Frozen Sweet peas
  • Mango
  • Papayas (avoid this one because likely GMO)
  • Eggplant
  • Cantaloupe (domestic)
  • Kiwi
  • Cabbage
  • Watermelon
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Grapefruit
  • Mushrooms

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