We all know how important our intake of fruits and vegetables is to our general well-being. But some of us worry about the pesticides, fungicides, and other “accidental additives” our foods might contain. So here is a list of the “dirty dozen” and the “clean fifteen”; which means those most likely or least likely to carry harmful residues. For instance, if you can afford it, buy only organic versions of the “dirty dozen” to minimize your pesticide intake. Conventional avocados are the cleanest; there is no need to buy organic avocados – though if the pits could be smaller……
More than 90% of the strawberries, apples, cherries nectarines spinach and other leafy green vegetables tested positive for two or more pesticides. A single sample of kale, collards and mustard greens may contain up to 20 different pesticide residues, and spinach can have nearly twice as much pesticide residue than other crops.
Buying organic is not always feasible for all these foods; choose a farmers’ market or a local stand and ask about their pesticide practices. I prefer to buy from people I know and trust. In the grocery, you may need to pay more for the organic variety; I like to do that with strawberries and other favorite fruits and vegetables.
Here is a list of the “Dirty Dozen” those that carry the most pesticide residue:
- Kale, collard and mustard greens
- Bell and hot peppers
And these are the “Clean Fifteen” those that carry the least:
- Sweet corn
- Sweet peas (frozen)
- Honeydew melon
But why worry? These pesticides have been used on our food for many years. They kill the vermin that will destroy the crops, so that we have a better yield. What harm can that small amount do?
Pesticides may contain toxins which can cause a range of health problems which include food poisoning. Especially people who work in the fields processing the plants may have a higher exposure.
But pesticides can be used in a variety of other ways which include:
- Herbicides: to kill/control weeds and other harmful plants
- Rodenticides: to kill/control rodents such as mice and rats
- Fungicides: to kill/control fungi (e.g. mushrooms)
- Avicides: to kill/control birds
It has been claimed that some pesticides cause several types of food poisoning bacteria to thrive and spread this illness. Certain bacteria such as e coli or salmonella respond to these pesticides by multiplying which increases the risk of food poisoning.
This debate still goes on. No one can be absolutely sure of the consequences.
If you are sensitive, eating fruit or vegetables which have been sprayed with pesticides can cause the following symptoms: abdominal cramps, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, headache, blurred vision, or feeling weak and shaky. Most people do not experience this.
Still it is safer to take basic precautions. Choose organic when you can, especially for items on the Dirty Dozen list. Wash your produce under running water, even if you buy organic. Wash slowly and gently rub the skin to release any particles that may be there.
The best way to wash fresh produce before eating it is with cool water. Using other substances is largely unnecessary. And they’re often not as effective as water and gentle friction. Commercial cleaners should never be used on food.
Note that fresh produce should be washed right before you’re ready to eat it. Washing fruits and vegetables before storing them may create an environment in which bacterial growth is more likely.
Before you begin washing fresh produce, wash your hands with soap and water. Be sure that any utensils, sinks, and surfaces you’re using to prepare your produce are also washed and clean,
Most fresh fruits and veggies can gently be scrubbed under cold running water (using a clean soft brush for those with firmer skins) and then dried. It can help to soak, drain, and rinse produce that has more dirt-trapping layers.
Cut away any bruised or visibly rotten areas. If you’re handling a fruit or vegetable that’ll be peeled, such as an orange, wash it before peeling it to prevent any surface bacteria from entering the flesh.
Fruits and vegetables like potatoes, carrots, and turnips, can benefit from being brushed with a clean, soft bristle to better remove residues from their pores.
Spinach, lettuce, Swiss chard, leeks, and cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts and bok choy should have their outermost layer removed, then be submerged in a bowl of cool water, swished, drained, and rinsed with fresh water.
Berries, mushrooms, and other types of produce that are more likely to fall apart can be cleaned with a steady stream of water and gentle friction using your fingers to remove grit.
Once you have thoroughly rinsed your produce, dry it using a clean paper or cloth towel. More fragile produce can be laid out on the towel and gently patted or rolled around to dry them without damaging them.
Be welcome to call the office for more pesticide information articles.
Now be sure to enjoy!
Blessings to you,
- These five websites provided the material for this blog: