Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Worst offenders: The most pesticide-laden fruits and veg

My brother sent me the a link to FoodNews from the Environmental Working Group, which puts out a shopper's guide of the pesticide content found on fruits and vegetables.

I had seen a similar list elsewhere -- pesticide-rich produce items -- having first heard of 'the dirty dozen' on a radio show podcast I listen to (KCRW's Good Food). This list actually lists peaches as #1 worst when it comes to pesticides, whereas the list I had seen previously had found apples to be the worst (so I remembered). On the last one I saw, they took their samples based on how people typically eat the fruit -- that is, for oranges, they'd peel the orange and take their measurements from the orange innards. For peaches, which are usually eaten whole, they'd take the measurements with the skin as well.

Fruits and vegetables scoring really high (bad) on their list are largely things we eat whole (apples, peaches, nectarines, cherries, bell peppers, etc.), whereas the things that they find fewer pesticides on, or less % likelihood of pesticides on, are the ones that get peeled (papaya, mango, kiwi, pineapple, avocado, corn, onions..). Lucky for us fans, blueberries are one of the few exceptions.

This would seem to indicate that my mom has probably been right all these years in peeling apples and other fruit skins off before serving them at our family's fruit time. Also, it makes me wonder about whether my cousin-in-law Krish is ingesting a lot more pesticides than the average person (he eats most fruits whole, like, oranges with the peel!), and whether it's not so great that Alex and I have become lazy and started eating kiwi in their entirety, brown fuzz and all.

They say:
Will washing and peeling help?

Nearly all of the data used to create these lists already considers how people typically wash and prepare produce (for example, apples are washed before testing, bananas are peeled). While washing and rinsing fresh produce may reduce levels of some pesticides, it does not eliminate them. Peeling also reduces exposures, but valuable nutrients often go down the drain with the peel. The best option is to eat a varied diet, wash all produce, and choose organic when possible to reduce exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.

I prefer to eat organic, but still I'd like to do more research regarding the costs and benefits of the many options now available (conventional, organic, local, none of the above...)