The Environmental Working Group (www.ewg.org) is a nonprofit organization that advocates in Washington D.C., for policies that protect global and individual health. Among the many valuable services they provide is a Shoppers' Guide to Pesticides in Produce. It is based on the results of nearly 43,000 pesticide tests performed on produce and collected by federal agencies between 2000 and 2004. Nearly all of the data used took into account how people typically wash and prepare produce - for example, apples were washed and bananas peeled before testing.
Of the 43 different fruit and vegetable categories tested, the following twelve foods do not have to be organic. These had the lowest pesticide load, and consequently are the safest conventionally grown crops to consume from the standpoint of pesticide contamination:
- Sweet peas (frozen)
- Sweet corn (frozen)
Why should you care about pesticides? The EWG points out that there is a growing consensus in the scientific community that small doses of pesticides and other chemicals can have adverse effects on health, especially during vulnerable periods such as fetal development and childhood.
To this list, I would add one caveat: When it comes to pesticide use, there is more to consider than just the residues that are ingested by the consumer. Although peeled foods such as bananas, mangoes, avocadoes and kiwis may spare the consumer from significant pesticide exposure, it is possible that large amounts of pesticides and herbicides are used on the farms from which these originate, contaminating groundwater, promoting erosion and otherwise damaging local ecosystems. To help promote the health of the planet as well as your own health, it's best to buy organic whenever possible, including when you are purchasing the foods listed above.