EWG's Dirty Dozen Pesticide-ridden fruit and veg!

Thursday, June 23, 2011
A few days ago I heard about the U.S. not for profit lobbiest, Environmental Working Group's (EWG) Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce. The 'Dirty Dozen' lists the top 12 fruit and veg. items the EWG strongly recommends for people to buy as certified organic, because these are the produce items most heavily sprayed and laden with synthetic, toxic pesticides. 

We need to bear in mind that this is based on U.S. research of course, but there are very often similar practices in Australian non-organic agriculture. Supermarkets and greengrocers are also increasingly selling imported produce, which is often not grown to the health and safety standards we do have here in conventional food production. We know for a fact that Australian non-organic, 'conventionally' grown apples and pears are commonly sprayed dozens of times during their growing period with a number of different pesticides and fungicides, not to mention the petro-chemical fertilisers and herbicides also used. Even after washing and peeling, residues can remain in food. I have asked our certification body (ACO) to clarify whether this EWG info correlates to Australian produce and/or what is the 'Dirty Dozen' for Australian conventionally grown produce? I'll let you know when I find additional information. (N.B.: Apparently there isn't an existing correlating list to this U.S. version to simply 'refer' to. If you're seeking further clarification about what is used in growing non-organic Australian produce, you can approach the relevant Govt. & conventional agricultural industry bodies, e.g.: ANZFA, FSANZ, Vic Farmers Federation, DPI e.t.c.. There's also an excellent Biodynamic Agriculture Aust. article (referenced): http://www.biodynamics.net.au/articles/myths_of_safe_pesticides.htmYou can also contact Aust. organic certifying bodies for any info they might be able to share - BFA/ACO, NAASA, OFA)

According to the EWG information, picking 5 servings of fruits and vegetables (the recommended daily intake of F&V) from the 12 most contaminated would cause you to consume an average of 14 different pesticides a day. This does not sound unrealistic to us by what we know about conventional food production, including here in Australia.

The worst contaminated are:
  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Strawberries 
Followed by:

    4.  Peaches
    5.  Spinach
    6.  Nectarines
    7.  Grapes
    8.  Capsicums
    9.  Potatoes
   10. Blueberries
   11. Lettuce
   12. Kale/collard greens

The EWG's guide also lists the "Clean Fifteen", the produce items least likely to test positive for pesticides. If you choose 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day from EWG's "Clean 15"  rather than the "Dirty Dozen", you can lower the volume of pesticide you consume daily by 92 percent, according to EWG calculations. Prioritising these choices, you'll also eat fewer types of pesticides, maybe fewer than 2 pesticides per day (but in reality, you never know what you're eating if it's not certified organic!).

Remember though folks, pesticides are not the only chemicals used in non-organic agriculture, there's also herbicides (i.e. weed killers such as Round Up and worse), fungicides and synthetic fertilisers.

The idea is to use the EWG's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides to reduce your exposures as much as possible, but eating conventionally-grown produce is far better than not eating fruits and vegetables at all. We would agree with this in principle, but would also urge people to seek out quality certified organic produce as much as possible 'across the board', not only for their's and their families well being but for the animal welfare and environmental conservation inherent in sustainable and ethical food production, that organic farming offers. Remember though, you can exercise choice over what you buy wherever it's available to you...We'd personally only recommend the EWGs shopping approach if sourcing organic produce is a problem where you live. 

To learn more about the Environmental Working Group and their goals or to read about the EWGs methodology for compiling this Shopper's Guide go to:  http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/methodology/ 

There are many sources of exposure to pesticides and other health-depleting chemicals in our daily lives such as:

  • Household Products - fly sprays and all other pesticides (domestic and commercial), air fresheners, cleaning products & others
  • Personal Care Products and Cosmetics which contain  parabens, SLS, sulfates & other nasties.
  • Pet Products
  • Lice Shampoos
  • Garden Chemicals (your own and perhaps neighbouring properties, golf courses, council spraying)
  • 'Town' Drinking and Shower Water (unfiltered)
  • Swimming Pools and Hot Tubs (often use fungicides and algicides)

...obviously we can't live in a 'bubble' and escape exposure to all of these things, but just as with organic foods, it's about informed choice, consciously choosing your 'poisons' (which ones and how much exposure)  and taking personal responsibility for what you buy and what you expose yourself and your kids to - and there IS loads of good info and better, often easy choices out there if you make the effort to check it out. Our 'favourites' page on this website can start you off with a few resources...

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