Not all of us can afford to go 100% organic every time we shop. The solution? Focus on those foods that come with the heaviest burden of pesticides, additives and hormones. According to the Environmental Working Group, consumers can reduce their pesticide exposure by 80% by avoiding the most contaminated fruits and vegetables and eating only the cleanest.
Top 12 Most Contaminated Foods
1. Celery. There's no protective skin on celery, which makes it almost impossible to wash off the chemicals that are used on conventional crops.
2. Peaches. Multiple pesticides are regularly applied to these delicately skinned fruits in conventional orchards. Peaches were number 1 on the Dirty Dozen list of 2009 & ranked number 2 in 2010. OVER 62 pesticides have been detected in residue on peaches!!
3. Strawberries. If you buy strawberries out of season, they're most likely imported from countries that use less-stringent regulations for pesticide use. Strawberries ranked number 3 on the 2010 Dirty Dozen list with 59 pesticides detected in residue on strawberries.
4. Apples. Apples rank among the dirtiest fruits and vegetables, with 42 different pesticides having been detected as residue. Like peaches, apples are typically grown with the use of poisons to kill a variety of pests, from fungi to insects. Scrubbing and peeling doesn't eliminate chemical residue completely, so it's best to buy organic when it comes to apples. Peeling a fruit or vegetable also strips away many of their beneficial nutrients.
5. Blueberries. New on the Dirty Dozen list in 2010, blueberries are treated with as many as 52 pesticides, making them one of the dirtiest berries on the market.
6. Nectarines. With 33 different types of pesticides found on nectarines, they rank up there with apples and peaches among the dirtiest tree fruit.
7. Bell Peppers. Tests have found 49 different pesticides on sweet bell peppers. Peppers have thin skins that don't offer much of a barrier to pesticides. They're often heavily sprayed with insecticides.
8. Spinach. New on the list for 2010, spinach can be laced with as many as 48 different pesticides, making it one of the most contaminated green leafy vegetable.
9. Kale. Traditionally kale is known as a hardier vegetable that rarely suffers from pests and disease, but it was found to have high amounts of pesticide residue when tested last year.
10. Cherries. Even locally grown cherries are not necessarily safe. In fact, in one survey in recent years, cherries grown in the U.S. were found to have three times more pesticide residue then imported cherries. Government testing has found 42 different pesticides on cherries.
11. Potatoes. America's favorite vegetable can be laced with as many as 37 different pesticides.
12. Grapes. Imported grapes run a much greater risk of contamination than those grown domestically only imported grapes make the 2010 Dirty Dozen list. Vineyards can be sprayed with different pesticides during different growth periods of the grape, and no amount of washing or peeling will eliminate contamination because of the grape's thin skin. Remember, wine is made from grapes, which testing shows can harbor as many as 34 pesticides.
Other notable dirty foods…
Meat. 10 different pesticides identified in beef & 8 in pork.
Milk. 12 different pesticides have been identified in milk (not including hormones & antibiotics).
Coffee. Many of the beans you buy are grown in countries that don't regulate use of chemicals and pesticides. Look for the USDA Organic label to ensure you're not buying beans that have been grown or processed with the use of potentially harmful chemicals. To go a step or two further, and look for the Fair Trade Certified labels to ensure that your purchase supports farmers who are paid fairly and treated well.
Leafy Greens. Leafy greens are frequently contaminated with what are considered the most potent pesticides used on food (51 of them).
Carrots. Off the list in 2010, carrots have made the Dirty Dozen list in previous years because of the 26 pesticides that have been detected in food residue.
Pears. As insects become more resilient to the pesticides used on pears, more and more chemicals are used (28 of them).