How to Minimize Pesticide Exposure

Let’s face it: we can’t eat certified organic produce all the time. And that’s okay. In fact, a tomato grown without pesticides at a nearby farm is more environmentally sound than its certified organic counterpart flown in from halfway around the globe. The most important thing to keep in mind is this:  if you know the source of your produce (say, you purchase it from a farmers’ market), try to ascertain whether it was grown with or without pesticides.  The fewer chemicals that touch your food, the better. This is a no-brainer, right?

The Environmental Working Group, founded in 1993, has just released a pocket guide, and is working on an iPhone app, to help consumers identify which produce items are most likely to contain pesticide residue and which are not. So when in doubt, consult their list. It’s the size of a baseball card and can be tucked easily inside your wallet.

Among the “dirty dozen” foods—those most likely to contain potentially harmful contaminants—are celery, peaches, strawberries, apples, blueberries, nectarines, bell peppers, spinach, kale, cherries, potatoes, and imported grapes. When buying these items, choose organic, if you can. The top 5 “cleanest” foods—those lowest in pesticides—are onions, avocadoes, sweet corn, pineapples, and mangoes. (Click over to see the full list.)

The nonprofit agency also advises washing all produce, regardless of how it was grown. 


Cheryl Sternman Rule is a widely-published food writer and the voice behind the blog 5 Second Rule.





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