- STRAWBERRIES. Sorry folks. The reason they look so plump and perfect is because they are drenched in pesticides so strong that an insect would die just admiring them from across the field. Strawberry growers actually use fumigants, which are poisonous gases (developed mostly for chemical warfare but now banned by the Geneva Conventions) to sterilize their fields before planting. These, unsurprisingly, kill every pest, weed and other living thing in the soil. YUM! Recent studies of insecticides used on some fruits and vegetables found that children exposed to high levels were at greater risk of impaired intelligence and ADHD. Studies also show that pesticide exposure—even in tiny amounts—can interfere with the way genes function over time and that they are linked to a range of ailments, from certain cancers to diabetes and obesity.
- SPINACH. Our poor green friend has more pesticide residues by weight than all other produce tested, with three-fourths of samples contaminated with a neurotoxic bug killer that is banned from use on food crops in Europe.
- NECTARINES. Check out this fun link to learn more.
- APPLES. They are a regular on this list. Here is some good information on how to avoid pesticides.
- PEACHES. Twice as many pesticide residues as on nectarines.
- PEARS. Our pointy pal is a newcomer on the list, with five different pesticide residues. Four of them are fungicides, which help prevent spoilage (while they spoil your insides). Here they are, if you’re interested in their unpronounceable names and the specific damage they cause:
• Carbendazim, found on more than one-fourth of samples, a chemical that is toxic to the male reproductive system and a suspected hormone disruptor.
• Diphenylamine, found on about one in eight samples. This chemical is banned in Europe because of concerns that it could form cancer-causing nitrosamines during storage or when pears are cooked.
• The bee-killing insecticides acetamiprid and imidacloprid, found on about one in seven and one in 12 samples, respectively.
Why is he wearing a Hazmat suit for cherry spraying? Hmm. Food for thought.
The list actually goes on and on, but I bring you the most evil culprits. These, my friends, should be bought organic, or not at all. Especially if they are going into little bodies.
And now…drumroll… I’m going to share a list of produce that will NOT kill you (at least not immediately) if you buy conventional. This does not mean free sailing, it’s just the pesticide levels are lower.
These lists and data come from the much esteemed and unbiased Environmental Working Group. This non-profit organization is an amazing resource and its website is sure to entertain for hours on end, as you investigate your skin creams and sunscreens for toxicity levels.
But back to food: you can test the healthiness of 80,000 foods at this impressive link. It ranks nutrition, ingredients, and processing. Disclaimer: I agree with everything except for their disdain for saturated fat; they ding saturated fat, not distinguishing between the real-food variety (like butter), and processed crap. A good rule-of-thumb: if it’s a whole food, it’s good and necessary, and if it’s processed in a factory and packaged, it’s usually not.
Also, any product that hides its ingredients under the mysterious term fragrance will be heavily penalized by the point chart. That’s because it sounds benign and usually is not. Almost anything can masquerade as a fragrance, just like anything (including MSG) can masquerade as a natural flavor in food. You like your food unregulated? Or faux-regulated by FDA officials who bend to the will of special interests? That’s what you get. So beware of unnamed fragrances and unnamed natural flavors.
Anyway, if you install the free app for your phone, you can scan barcodes right at the supermarket and make good, informed decisions while you shop!
And if you carry the convenient card-sized chart that the EWG will email you as a special gift for signing up, you can refer to that every time you shop. Remember that pesticide application is a moving target, so you’ll need to check back every season for the worst offenders. The EWG claims that about 80 % of your pesticide load comes from just 12 nasty fruits and vegetables. And now you know how to avoid them.