A Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce

The Next Family

By: Shannon Ralph

As a mom of three young children, a lot of my mental energy goes into making certain my kids eat foods that will keep them healthy, happy, and strong. As a borderline obsessive mom of three young children, I spend an obscene number of precious never-can-get-them-back minutes consumed with my children’s diet. I try to buy organic food when I can. Organic food, while easing my mind on the dietary front, often presents its own set of issues on the budgetary front. On more than one occasion, I have found myself in the grocery store—a regular apple in one hand and an organic apple in the other—mentally weighing the pros and cons of spending the extra money for organic fruits and vegetables. Are conventionally-grown apples pesticide-ridden cancer-causers? Is that claim an overly hyped exaggeration? Is it irresponsible to forgo my grocery budget for organic foods? Is it more irresponsible to feed my children anything but organic food? Will my future grandchildren be born with two heads if I buy the regular apple for my precious little ones? Oy vey. Being a parent these days is mentally exhausting.

Imagine my excitement when I came across the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) 2011 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. The EWG lists the twelve most contaminated fruits and vegetables, as well as the fifteen “cleanest.” The foods that the EWG considers most important to buy organic are: apples, celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, nectarines (imported), grapes (imported), sweet bell peppers, potatoes, blueberries (domestic), lettuce, and kale/collard greens. These conventionally-grown foods contain the highest pesticide residue. The following are considered safe to buy conventionally-grown, as they contain the lowest pesticide residue: onions,  sweet corn, pineapples, avocados, asparagus, sweet peas, mangoes, eggplant, cantaloupe (domestic), kiwi, cabbage, watermelon, sweet potatoes, grapefruit, and mushrooms.

Of course, eating conventionally-grown produce is far better than eating no produce at all. Most days, if I can manage to get a vegetable of any sort in my children, I am happy. However, the next time I find myself standing in the grocery produce department man-handling the apples, I will definitely think twice about saving a buck.


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