NEW YORK, 16 SEPTEMBER 2010
Dear EarthTalk: What are the most important foods to buy organic?
Rachel Klepping, Bronxville, NY
Given the usual higher prices of organic versus conventionally-grown
foods, it can be a challenge to get the biggest bang for our buck while
eating healthy and avoiding the ingestion of synthetic chemicals along
with our nutrients. One approach, say some experts, is to only buy organic
when the actual edible parts of a non-organically grown food might come
into direct contact with toxic fertilizers and pesticides.
The nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG) reports that consumers
can reduce their chemical exposure by some 80 percent by either avoiding
the most contaminated conventionally grown fruits and vegetables
altogether, or by eating only the organic varieties. To help us sort
through what and what not to buy, the group offers a handy Shoppers Guide
to Pesticides, which fits on a small piece of paper that you can keep in
your pocket and have handy on grocery trips. You can print it out for free
from EWGs FoodNews.org website, or
you can download it as a free App for your iPhone.
Photo: beautifulcataya, courtesy
To make it easy to use, EWG has distilled its analysis into two lists.
The first, "Dirty Dozen: Buy These Organic," lists foods that when grown
conventionally contain the largest amounts of pesticide and fertilizer
residues. These include peaches, strawberries, apples, blueberries,
nectarines, bell peppers, spinach, cherries, kale/collard, greens,
potatoes, and (imported) grapes. Consumers should definitely spend the
extra money for organic versions of these foods.
On the other side of the coin, EWGs "Clean 15" list includes foods
that contain the least amount of chemical residues when grown
conventionally. These include onions, avocados, sweet corn, pineapples,
mangos, sweet peas, asparagus, kiwi, cabbage, eggplant, cantaloupe,
watermelon, grapefruit, sweet potatoes and honeydew. Its OK to eat
conventionally grown varieties of these foods.
EWG analysts developed the "Clean 15" guide using data from some 89,000
tests for pesticide residues in produce conducted between 2000 and 2008
and collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Whats the difference, you may ask?
EWG found that by eating five conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables a
day from the Dirty Dozen list, a consumer on average ingests 10 different
pesticides; those who stick to the Clean 15 list ingest less than two.
Other foods you and your family eat, such as meats, cereals, breads and
dairy products, might also be exposing you to unwanted chemicals.
According to EWG, the direct health benefits of organic meat, eggs and
milk are less clear, but you should play it safe by sticking with
all-natural, free-range, grass-fed meats that are not fed antibiotics or
growth hormones, and by choosing only organic dairy products.
Thanks to increasing demand, more and more food purveyors are putting
extra emphasis on organics. This will ultimately result in both lower
prices and larger selections. Natural foods market aisles are already
teeming with organic choices and chances are your local supermarket or
big box store has introduced organic versions of many popular items.
Consequently, there has never been a better time to take stock of what you
are feeding yourself and your family, and to make changes for better
CONTACT: EWG, www.foodnews.org;
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