The Environmental Working Group (EWG) just released its annual “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” lists of the most and least contaminated conventionally grown fruits and vegetables. This year apples top the list as the dirtiest, edging out 2010 winner celery, while onions are still at the top of the cleanest list. Here are five key points to take away from the 2011 EWG lists:
1. Don’t stop eating vegetables
“The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure,” says the EWG.
2. Sugar is still worse
While apples and celery are numbers one and two on this year’s dirtiest list, the EWG doesn’t recommend you remove them from your diet. “We would certainly recommend produce from our Dirty Dozen list in lieu of other, less-healthy foods or snacks, like fat-, sugar- or additive-laden processed products.”
3. Legal levels of pesticides are not necessarily safe levels
EWG does not dispute the claim by the Alliance for Food and Farming that “99% of food samples analyzed did not contain pesticide residues above safety levels by the U.S. EPA.” But EWG also says that while “99 percent of samples meet legal limits…legal isn’t always safe. EPA’s ‘safety’ levels, called ‘tolerances,’ help EPA know that farmers are applying the pesticide properly – not too late in the season or in amounts above what is allowed. If tolerance levels were set to protect all children eating produce, as we believe they should be, then many fruits and vegetables would fail.”
4. You don’t have to go all organic
Organic produce can be expensive and in some areas is hard to find, two facts EWG understands very well. “We created the Shopper’s Guide to help consumers make the healthiest choices given their circumstances,” the group points out. “EWG always recommends eating fruits and vegetables, even conventionally grown, over processed foods and other less healthy alternatives.”
5. But, organic is the safest
Need evidence that organic produce is superior, healthwise, to conventional? EWG offers this startling discovery: “Studies led by Chensheng Lu of Emory University found that elementary school-age children’s body burdens of organophosphate pesticides…peaked during the summer, when they ate the most fresh produce. But just five days after switching to an all-organic diet, their bodies were essentially pesticide-free.”
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