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spreenkle #8 – (on pesticides)

beautiful fresh vegetables and fruits, their kaleidoscopic colors, their squat,  bulbous, and stringy shapes, and their deep-earthed or floral scents, make me woozy. extolling their many virtues, urging you to eat them, treading that fine line between encouragement and pushiness, i try not to sound too much like your mother ….

but I’ve sworn to tell the truth, and the complete story is not all health & happiness.

fruits and vegetables have their dark side.

unless you grow your own (and even if you do I suppose) those colorful containers of nature’s goodness may be hiding some pretty nasty insect-defenses… yes, poison, people…and as a general principle, and one I recommend, it’s desirable to avoid consuming poisons wherever possible. 😉

Below are two lists. They’re in alphabetical order, so it’s important to note that the top three on the Avoid List don’t reflect the 3 worst offenders. The worst are: SpinachStrawberries – and Celery (in that order.)

The lists aren’t inclusive of all fruits and veggies of course. They’re only meant to identify the ones most apt and least apt to have high pesticide levels. (Results were obtained from a sampling of produce from the across the US.)

12 Foods –  MOST Pestidicdes

  1. Apples
  2. Bell Peppers
  3. Celery
  4. Cherries
  5. Imported Grapes
  6. Nectarines
  7. Peaches
  8. Pears
  9. Potatoes
  10. Red Raspberries
  11. Spinach
  12. Strawberries

12 Foods – LEAST Pesticides

  1. Asparagus
  2. Avocados
  3. Bananas
  4. Broccoli
  5. Cauliflower
  6. Corn
  7. Kiwis
  8. Mangos
  9. Onions
  10. Papaya
  11. Pineapple
  12. Peas

It’s not always possible or financially practical to consume all organic or pesticide-free foods. But the above lists should help determine which ones you become a stickler about.  It’s also important to note that several fruit & vegetable “washes” are on the market that remove pesticides, chemicals, oil and waxes! (They’re generally found in the produce section of your market.)

UPDATE: A good friend has supplied me with a different list. There are points of agreement and difference between the lists. I’ll publish a second list shortly.


(Wednesday, back to extolling vegetables’ virtues. But yet another post before that.)

23 Comments Post a comment
  1. Very interesting reading …. never heard about this before. I love Oranges and they are not on either list. Learned something new today, but I don’t think I will have it in mind when I eat my fruit and vegetables.Tomatoes not on the list neither ????

    January 28, 2013
    • It all depends on your source…this was just an “average” sampling. Generally buying produce, if it’s organic, it’s specified. I can always find organic tomatoes, but not always oranges. But if I were going to be using the zest, I’d sure be looking for organic, or washing really really well first.

      January 28, 2013
      • I very seldom buy organic – when I worked in UK we had to soak everything, fruit, salad leafs and vegetables in chlorine tablets for 20 min – special tablets that didn’t leave any smell or taste. I misunderstood your post completely. So washing my vegetables and fruit is a must.
        Have seen how tomato pickers’ faces have been damaged from whatever they spray on the tomatoes. Terrible.

        January 28, 2013
        • Awful!!! Sounds criminal to me! No one should have to endure that for others of us to eat decently.

          January 28, 2013
          • They spray the tomatoes … so the will slow down ripening. Couldn’t believe it when I saw the women’s faces – many years ago now, hope those days are gone. Also very important to take away the green “fly” on the tomato before washing – and also take away the little white bit were the fly has been – because there is most of the “poison” stays, because the tomatoes are washed before packing.

            January 28, 2013
  2. Some of the results always surprise me (*celery* a top offender? Bananas among the safer ones? Who would’ve guessed?), so it’s always a good idea to check the statistics. Even better, of course, to just be sure I’m cleaning the produce before I serve it anyway, so at least I have a better chance of getting rid of surface nastiness. Mom *was* right–clean is a big deal. 🙂

    January 28, 2013
    • Celery surprised me too Karthryn! Moms are SO often right…it gets tiresome! 🙂

      January 28, 2013
  3. Thanks for sharing this information! Happy Monday:)

    January 28, 2013
    • You’re so welcome! Thanks for stopping in!

      January 28, 2013
  4. We were talking about this at school recently, as there had been an e. coli outbreak locally – though nothing was confirmed in terms of a source. Working in a professional kitchen has made me ever so aware that the care I take selecting produce and practicing food safety is a huge responsibility. We wash, wash, wash. Our hands, our work surfaces, our produce. And STILL we worry all of the time…

    January 28, 2013
    • I just saw a story recently on local news – the very thing you mention- one of our culinary schools received very poor grades on cleanliness, food-safety practices, etc. I can imagine Movita that a person could easily become a germ-phobe in a setting like yours ! (I’m dangerously close to that in my own kitchen :). It’d be a short trip for me!) Thanks for your input!!

      January 28, 2013
  5. It helps if you can shop at farmers’ markets and know your growers: you can ask them what they use to deter pests: companion plantings and worm castings tea won’t hurt anybody.

    January 28, 2013
    • I agree completely Sharyn! Where you are, you’ve probably got many more options than much of the country for shopping farmers’ markets – pretty much year-round, right? Getting to know your farmers is always a good thing! 🙂

      January 28, 2013
  6. I’ve still never found an Australian list to compare to, so until I do have to presume ours would be similar. Went to some amazing farmers markets on the weekend. So much choice and lots of people doing their shopping…despite it pouring down with rain!
    I’ve never heard of a “wash” being available, a skeptical me raises an eyebrow to this. What on earth could remove everything?

    January 28, 2013
    • Industrial-strength solvents, silly! 🙂 Honestly Brydie, a good question! Here’s what the container says (and we buy this at our “healthiest, most organic” market – but I’ve seen it a number of places.) “Removes pesticides, chemicals, waxes, dirt, oil..etc…Environmentally safe, non-toxic, organic, completely rinsable.” Ingredients: purified water, non-ionic & anionic surfactants (coconut based), Polysorbate-20 (derived from sorbitol.) Like you, I’d MUCH rather be shopping at the farmers’ markets and needing nothing but water for rinsing, but whatdyagonna do? I can barely wait for our farmers’ markets to open again, but we can get an awful lot of good, organic produce raised fairly near by. Thanks so much for your good question! 🙂 Always thinkin,’ you are! xo

      January 28, 2013
  7. jacquie #

    have they done any studies to document that the fruit/veggie washes actually do work? I’m asking because i seem to remember hearing/.reading that they did not actually do much good. also while for the most part those ingredients in the was do sound begin, i do wonder about the polysorbate-20. i have gotten so cynical……

    January 28, 2013
    • Jacquie, I don’t know of studies that test the effectiveness of produce cleaners like these. I would imagine that the effectiveness depends partly (like it does with hand washing) on how long and how thoroughly we wash them. (Instructions for use do say that for the “hardest to clean” produce, create a solution and allow fruits/veggies to soak for 3 minutes before rinsing.) Still, in every case we’re able to, we buy non-sprayed food. (I know what you say, any ingredient followed by a number raises suspicions…but they aren’t always mysterious laboratory-produced ingredients. We’re cynical for good reasons. We’ve got to be smart, informed consumers… which requires such a commitment, doesn’t it?) Thanks so much for the comment Jacquie!

      January 28, 2013
  8. Some pesticides can be absorbed by the plant. In this case washing won’t help because the chemical was absorbed systemically.

    The question I have is; if you cannot find organic fruit and vegetable for all those foods you love, is it better to absorb l small amount of pesticides, or is it bettter not to eat any, no matter how healthy they are for you?

    January 28, 2013
    • Ronnie – your question’s the right one. Everyone has to answer for them themselves. Whenever possible, stay away from poisons. In most places a person can find organic frozen vegetables and fruits. They’re expensive for sure. But I think in this country we have a very unreasonable expectation of how CHEAP our food should be…that’s led to the mass production, over-planting, corporate farms that employ all kinds of (unhealthy for us and the planet) measures to increase production so as to sell “cheaply”. That’s my 2 cents, which may be worth about what you paid for it. 🙂
      Thanks for asking the question!

      January 30, 2013
  9. Such an important post and such great questions/comments here in the reply section. We try to stay away from the dirty dozen, though I just realized today the frozen strawberries/fruits we buy for smoothies aren’t organic. Is frozen any different than fresh? Sadly, I’m presuming not. Thanks for this good information, Ma.

    January 28, 2013
    • Yes, sadly, most of the frozen fruits (and some of them the worst offenders) carry their pesticides and herbicides into your smoothies. Please see my comment to Ronnie above, when you have a moment. I think the thing to do is pick (or grow or buy) as much fresh fruit in summer as you can and freeze it to get you through to next summer. Let’s plan on doing more of that this summer! 🙂 xx

      January 30, 2013
  10. This time of year, our produce selection is pretty bad and organics are certainly no better. Still, I’ll go organic when available or frozen organic when they’re not. These lists are a must read for anyone who does the family shopping, Spree. Thanks for spreading the word. I’m going to pin it, hoping a few others will see them and act accordingly.

    January 29, 2013
    • Thanks for spreading the word John. I need to update this list as another out by Dr. Weil varies on certain offenders, though agrees on most.

      January 30, 2013

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