The Dirty Dozen

It might be hard to imagine that our favorite, delicious fruits and vegetables might be carrying some not so delicious toxins.  Conventional farming uses pesticides, herbicides and chemicals and we now have reason to believe that residues from some of these chemicals are left behind on fruit, vegetables, and grains. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which monitors pesticide levels in foods, reported in 2006, that 64 percent of fruits and vegetables and 69 percent of wheat grains had measurable residue levels. These results were reported after the food had been power-washed by the USDA. Although some pesticide residue is found on the surface of foods, other pesticides may be taken up through the roots and into the plant and cannot be removed.

The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit focused on public health, looked at approximately 100,000 produce pesticide reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to determine what fruits and vegetables we eat have the highest and lowest amounts of chemical residue.

They have defined the following “Dirty Dozen”—fruits and vegetables containing the highest content of pesticides and other toxins:

  • Celery
  • Peaches
  • Strawberries
  • Apples
  • Domestic blueberries
  • Nectarines
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Spinach, kale and collard greens
  • Cherries
  • Potatoes
  • Imported grapes
  • Lettuce

Please remember that all fresh produce, whether it’s grown with or without chemicals, should be washed with water to remove dirt and potentially harmful bacteria.

Here’s a great produce wash you can try:

Put one-quarter cup of vinegar and two tablespoons of salt into a sink or bucket of your fruits and vegetables and let them soak for 15 minutes. This will eliminate much of the dirt, pesticide residue, and waxes and won’t affect the flavor! If needed, you can add a teaspoon or two of baking soda as a scrub. Be sure to rinse your produce thoroughly after scrubbing or soaking.

Adapted from: Are There Toxins on Your Produce? by Marcelle Pick, Photo: Wizan/Flickr

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