Organic or Conventional Produce? Tips on Avoiding Pesticides

Organic or Conventional Produce? Tips on Avoiding Pesticides

Groceries are expensive and a major portion of most US family budgets. Most of us would like to buy all organic produce, but prices are often significantly higher for foods grown organically.

To help people save money and know which fruits and veggies are the safest when grown conventionally (with pesticides), a non-profit called the Environmental Working Group (EWG) provides an annual guide.

In this article, learn about produce with the highest and lowest concentrations of pesticides when tested for the 2021 guide. It can help you stretch your budget and avoid the most tainted produce.

Pesticide Residue on 70% of Non-Organic Produce

Every year since 2004, the EWG ranks 46 popular fruits and vegetables for pesticide contamination in its Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™. The Dirty Dozen are the 12 with the most types and amounts of pesticides. The Clean 15 are the least tainted fruits and veggies.

Test results come from 46,000 samples of produce from the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration. Samples are tested after they’ve been washed and peeled, when applicable. This year, EWG found that almost 70% of non-organic (conventional) fruits and veggies tested had potentially harmful chemical pesticide residue – after being washed and peeled. You can read the report summary here.

Pesticides are chemicals used in agriculture, non-ag green spaces, and sports fields, and for health protection programs. They’re used to protect plants from weeds, pests, and diseases and to protect humans from vector-borne diseases, such as malaria, dengue fever, and schistosomiasis (flatworms).

Studies Link Pesticides to a List of Health Issues

Dozens of studies of insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, rodenticides, and plant growth regulators link them to all types of illnesses and in worst cases, death. A report in the National Library of Medicine explains that the pesticide type, how you are exposed to it, how often you’re exposed, and your overall health determine the effects on you. It explains that pesticides are metabolized, excreted, stored, or bioaccumulated in body fat. It also lists many health concerns related to pesticides.

From the report:

“The numerous negative health effects that have been associated with chemical pesticides include, among other effects, dermatological, gastrointestinal, neurological, carcinogenic, respiratory, reproductive, and endocrine effects. Furthermore, high occupational, accidental, or intentional exposure to pesticides can result in hospitalization and death.”

How the EWG’s Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 Guides Help

Despite health concerns related to pesticides, sometimes we need to buy conventional fruits and veggies instead of organic to get more for our money or because organic options aren’t available.

Many stores display organic and conventional produce side-by-side, highlighting stark price differences. Since the average US family spends $314 to $516 a month on groceries, depending on where they live, and hundreds more on takeout, according to this report from Business Insider, ways to save on food are appreciated.

The Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists help us pick the safest conventional produce. Save these lists to make the best choices for you and your family on your next grocery run.