Dirty Talk - Pesticides and Produce

   By ChefErin  Jul 11, 2011

Recently World News with Diane Sawyer did a report on the effects of pesticides in children under the age of 7. Children exposed to common pesticides, even in the womb, showed a dramatic reduction in IQ. It’s reports like these that scream, “Wake Up!”

So what can we do differently to help reduce the chemicals we are exposed to and the medical conditions such as cancer, autism and autoimmune disease to which they are often linked.   It's no surprise that there are variety of different chemicals used to get the perfect size, shape and color of fruit on our local store shelves.  But don't ditch the fruits and vegetables they are a vital part of improved diet and nutrition, just get smart about how to choose, prepare and use them in your home.  This will help to eliminate as many potential toxins from our homes bodies and environment as we can.

One way to reduce toxins is by eating organically.  Listen, I know that buying organic products can be expensive. I can’t afford to buy organics exclusively but, I encourage you to purchase what you can afford. Also, spend your money wisely by concentrating on buying organic varieties of the foods that are potentially most exposed to harmful chemicals.   The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has compiled a list of produce that contains the highest percentage of pollutants/pesticides called the “Dirty Dozen.”

  • If you can only purchase a few organic fruits and vegetables, focus on buying organic versions of the produce listed on the “Dirty Dozen.”
  • If you can’t afford organics, or your grocer doesn’t carry them, stick to purchasing foods on the “Clean 15” list. The produce on the “Clean 15” list is lowest in pesticides according to EWG tests.

The owner of a produce distribution company once told me that he washed EVERY fruit and vegetable that he ate. Even if you don’t believe that pesticides are an issue, imagine how many people have touched your food before it gets to your table. Rinsing can remove some pesticides but you really should wash all your produce thoroughly. You can use special pesticide removing cleaners or mild soap and water. Peeling your produce can remove pesticides but you lose some nutrition in the process so, you are better off washing.


‘Dirty Dozen'

1. Celery
2. Peaches
3. Strawberries
4. Apples
5. Blueberries
6. Nectarines
7. Bell peppers
8. Spinach
9. Cherries
10. Kale/Collard greens
11. Potatoes
12. Grapes (imported)

'Clean 15'

1. Onions
2. Avocado
3. Sweet corn
4. Pineapple
5. Mangoes
6. Sweet peas
7. Asparagus
8. Kiwi
9. Cabbage
10. Eggplant
11. Cantaloupe
12. Watermelon
13. Grapefruit
14. Sweet potato
15. Honeydew melon

The Environmental Working Group has a complete list of fruits and vegetables tested at its website. You can also download a pdf or iphone app of the guide. 

How do you feel about organic vs. conventional foods? What percentage of the food you purchase is organic? Are there organic items that you are more likely to look for?


Make a Comment

shelb by shelb | Bronx, NY
Aug 07, 2011

Eating as many organic foods as possible is a great start to removing the toxins from our homes, but what about the chemicals we are exposed to from the everyday all-purpose cleaners and detergents to the bath and body products we use? There are so many dangerous products out there that people trust just because they're on the shelves, I can only hope that those searching out organic foods, do the research like I did and find safer, more natural and cost effective products like I did!!!

ChefErin by ChefErin | SEATTLE, WA
Jul 27, 2011

ashnjosh0427 - Thanks so much for the real world comment. It helps put cost in perspective. I hope that you and your husband continue to reach out to the public with healthy produce and good information! ~ Chef Erin

Saintfae by Saintfae | Strafford, MO
Jul 21, 2011

In our garden we use an organic spray we found at Walmart. I was skeptical because it uses essential oils to keep the bugs at bay, but it works wonderfully (and it smells good!). Well worth the extra money to have a piece of mind about what I'm eating. My sister-in-law gave me a bunch of tomatoes that she has grown and she uses a professional strength pesticide on them. I'm scared to eat them even after washing them.

ashnjosh0427 by ashnjosh0427 | land o lakes, FL
Jul 18, 2011

My husband and I own an organic farm. I think it is horrible the stuff they put in the food that some ingest. No wonder people get sooo sick we get use to these chemicals and then we end up sick. The stores are outrageous in their prices on organic foods. So we decided to sell our organic produce at a fraction of the cost. Why not eat good while saving money!!!!!

Dowiebee by Dowiebee | Olney, MD
Jul 13, 2011

Certainly makes you stop and think about washing the produce - I always do, but will make sure I do an even more thorough job. Thanks for the great advice Erin.

pukwudjies by pukwudjies | Seattle, WA
Jul 13, 2011

YIKES - I need to clean more! And eat more organic... thanks for the update and reminder.

ChefErin by ChefErin | SEATTLE, WA
Jul 13, 2011

I wish I could afford to buy only organic produce too, but the reality is I can't afford to. I think the clean 15 is particularly helpful because I feel more confident using non-organic items from the list.

jessicamac by jessicamac | MAPLEWOOD, NJ
Jul 12, 2011

That's really scary. We encourage our kids to eat a lot of raw fruit and vegetables, and they love red peppers and grapes. We'll be more careful in washing our veggies, and this year we're growing our own vegetables, which are so far pesticide-free.

basilandcatnip by basilandcatnip | GARLAND, TX
Jul 11, 2011

Organic actually has flavor! I grew up with family having gardens and knowing the local growers. I must admit I used to be 100%. But the past few years with job changes, markets closing, new regulations on farmers markets (many being forced out), I've had to buy things I really don't want and less organic.

Tmcantwell by Tmcantwell | NEW YORK, NY
Jul 11, 2011

I always wash fruit before eating.

DianeHoffmaster by DianeHoffmaster | LILBURN, GA
Jul 11, 2011

I am a HUGE fan of organic food myself! I also support our local farmers, one of which raises my beef and pork. I wish it wasn't so hard for small farmers to get organic certification. A lot of them can't claim organic, even if they are because of federal regulations!