Should You Buy Organic? 2022 Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 Lists Released

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Should You Buy Organic? 2022 Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 Lists Released

By Karen Lee Richards

 

If you want to begin incorporating more organic foods into your diet, but can't afford to buy everything organic, consulting the “EWG's 2022 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in ProduceTM” is a good place to start. Each year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) compiles a list of the top 12 most pesticide-ridden produce, which they call “The Dirty Dozen,” as well as a list of the top 15 fruits and vegetables with the least amount of pesticides, known as the “Clean 15.”

 

The annual EWG guide ranks the pesticide contamination of 46 of the most popular fruits and vegetables. The ranking of food and pesticides is based on the results from tests run by the USDA on more than 45,000 samples. It's interesting to note that when the USDA tests for pesticide residue in food, they first prepare the food as consumers would typically do prior to eating. In this case, produce is washed thoroughly and peeled when applicable. So any pesticide residue found after these preparations is what you would typically be consuming when you eat those fruits and vegetables at home.

 

The Dirty Dozen for 2022

 

Sadly, the EWG reports that potentially toxic pesticide residue is still being found on 70% of non-organic fresh fruits and vegetables. These are the 12 most pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables—the worst of the worst. If you want to reduce your exposure to pesticides, this is the best place to start.

 

  1. Strawberries

  2. Spinach

  3. Kale, collard & mustard greens

  4. Nectarines

  5. Apples

  6. Grapes

  7. Bell & hot peppers

  8. Cherries

  9. Peaches

  10. Pears

  11. Celery

  12. Tomatoes

 

“EWG recommends that, whenever possible, consumers purchase organic versions of Dirty Dozen produce,” said EWG Science Analyst Sydney Swanson. “Most pesticides can’t legally be applied to produce that is grown organically.”

The Clean 15 for 2022

 

When organic options are unavailable or unaffordable, EWG advises shoppers to buy produce from its Clean Fifteen. This year, almost 70% of Clean Fifteen samples had no detectable pesticide residues whatsoever. Few or no pesticides were detected in these fruits and vegetables.

 

  1. Avocados

  2. Sweet corn

  3. Pineapple

  4. Onions

  5. Papayas

  6. Sweet peas (frozen)

  7. Asparagus

  8. Honeydew melon

  9. Kiwi

  10. Cabbage

  11. Mushrooms

  12. Cantaloupe

  13. Mangoes

  14. Watermelon

  15. Sweet potatoes

 

If your favorite fruit or vegetable is not on either list, you can check out the EWG's full list to see where all 46 produce items rank.

 

Legal Does Not Mean Safe

 

The EWG explains in its press release that for the more than 70% of non-organic produce with detectable pesticides, nearly all of the levels fall under the legal limits allowed by government regulations.

 

But legal does not always mean safe.

Pesticides are toxic by design. Although they’re meant to kill pests such as fungi, insects and plants, many pesticides are also linked to serious human health issues, including hormone disruption, brain and nervous system toxicity, and cancer.

Recent research from Harvard University shows that consuming fruits and vegetables with high levels of pesticide residues may offset the protections eating such foods normally provides against cardiovascular disease and mortality .

Babies and children are particularly vulnerable to many of the health harms associated with pesticide exposure. Research published by EWG in 2020 found that the Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees pesticide safety, is failing to adequately consider children in setting legal limits for 90 percent of the most common pesticides.

The threats pesticides pose to children’s health have been known since at least 1993, when the National Academies of Science published a landmark study warning of inadequate oversight. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents concerned about their children’s exposure to pesticides consult EWG’s Shopper’s Guide.

A Word About GMOs

 

It's important to note that the EWG guide only evaluates pesticide residue in food. It doesn't evaluate things like whether or not a produce item comes from genetically engineered seeds. It does, however, make this statement about GMOs in its report:

 

Most processed foods typically contain one or more ingredients derived from genetically engineered crops, such as corn syrup and corn oil made from predominantly GMO starchy field corn. Yet GMO foods are not often found in the fresh produce section of American supermarkets. According to the USDA, a small percentage of zucchini, yellow squash and sweet corn is genetically modified. Most Hawaiian papaya is GMO. Genetically engineered apples and potatoes are also starting to enter the U.S. market.

 

For more information about GMOs in food, check out “EWG's Shopper's Guide to Avoiding GMO Food.”

 

 

Does Eating Organic Foods Really Make a Difference?

 

Studies are showing that eating organic can make a significant difference to your health.

 

Eating Organic Significantly Reduces Pesticide Exposure – A 2019 study, published in the journal Environmental Research, tested the urine of a diverse group of American families who were eating a conventional diet. They found potential exposure to more than 40 different pesticides. The families then switched to an all-organic diet. After just a week of eating organic, there was an average of 60% reduction in the levels of pesticides found in their urine.

 

Increased Organic Food Consumption Associated with Reduced Risk of Cancer – A study, published in the December 2018 issue of JAMA Internal Medicine, investigated the association between organic food consumption and the risk of cancer in 68,946 French adults. They found that those who had the highest frequency of organic food consumption had 25% fewer incidences of cancer than those who did not eat organic.

 

There's little doubt that eating organic offers important health benefits, but switching to an all-organic diet can be difficult. Depending on where you live, finding a wide variety of organic foods can be challenging. Many grocery stores only have a small section of their produce departments set aside for organic fruits and vegetables. And of course, buying organic foods is always more expensive. But when you look at the cost to your health and possible increased medical bills down the road, it may be small price to pay.

 

If you would like to start eating healthier and including more organic foods in your diet, the EWG's Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists are the best place to start. Put a copy of the lists in your wallet so you'll have them available when you're shopping. If you can only afford to add two or three organic foods at first, start with the worst of the worst––strawberries, spinach and kale. Then gradually add more organic produce as you're able. You might be surprised to find that often organic produce tastes better, too!

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