Knowing which foods to buy and which to avoid can be a daunting task. And now that pesticide use on produce has become a major topic in the food space, it seems like there is new criteria cropping up every day to keep mind. Thankfully, with a bit of effort and research, it’s quite easy to find healthy, whole food options that you can feel safe about eating. One helpful resources is the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) annual “Dirty Dozen” list, a short inventory of produce items that are so heavily contaminated with pesticides that consumers should buy the organic version whenever possible.

The EWG just released their 2016 list. While apples have usually held the top spot on the list, this year strawberries trumped the popular fruit, with 98 percent of strawberry samples found to have pesticides. Of that 98 percent, 40 percent had residues of 10 or more pesticides and some even had residues of 17 different chemicals. Considering the fact that strawberries were once a seasonal, limited crop and can now be found on grocery shelves all year round, the findings are not all that surprising. The demand for strawberries has gone up tremendously over the years, and farmers are tending their crops in accordance with this increase.

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Strawberries

 

“It is startling to see how heavily strawberries are contaminated with residues of hazardous pesticides, but even more shocking is that these residues don’t violate the weak U.S. laws and regulations on pesticides in food,” said Sonya Lunder, EWG Senior Analyst. “The EPA’s levels of residues allowed on produce are too lax to protect Americans’ health. They should be updated to reflect new research that shows even very small doses of toxic chemicals can be harmful, particularly for young children.”

Behind strawberries, the Dirty Dozen list advises purchasing organic nectarines, peaches, celery, grapes, spinach, tomatoes, bell peppers, hot peppers, cucumbers, and the ever-popular kale.

Considering the fact that research has shown consuming pesticide-contaminated food may be linked to cancer, ADHD, and autism, it is always best practice to choose organic whenever it is available. Of course, in some cases it might not be available or affordable, making the Dirty Dozen guide an incredibly useful resource to help consumers choose the best option possible. To see the EWG’s full Dirty Dozen guide, click here. Happy shopping!

Image source: Wikimedia Commons