The ‘Dirty Dozen’: 12 Foods You Should Always Buy Organic
When it comes to buying fruit, comparing organic with conventionally grown options can be like apples and oranges—even when all you’re trying to buy is apples.
A pound of apples costs roughly between $1 and $1.50, according to the most recent data from the USDA. If you want to go organic, you’ll pay about $1 more per pound.
You could make a case for the apples being worth more, however, because you’re buying a not insignificant amount of pesticides with that fruit, according to analysis of government data by the Environmental Working Group. In the latest iteration of the “Dirty Dozen,” released Wednesday, apples once again topped the list of the 12 fruits and vegetables (well, 14, really) that retain the highest amount of pesticides and other toxic agricultural chemicals.
According to the accompanying report, two-thirds of the more than 3,000 produce samples analyzed by the USDA tested positive for pesticide residue. A study published earlier this month by the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that eating organic reduced people’s exposure to pesticides—but that even sticking to an all-organic diet could still result in some pesticide intake. Chemicals used in agriculture can have severe health effects on agricultural workers, and there are concerns that low-level, long-term exposure could contribute to the development of chronic diseases such as cancer and autism.
So if you’re a budget-conscious shopper—and who isn’t, really?—but aren’t looking for a good deal on some value-added pesticides, that extra dollar per pound for apples is well spent. The same goes for peaches, nectarines, strawberries. and grapes, which round out the top five. And the consumer-friendly guide will show you where to make up for your more expensive organic purchases with the “Clean Fifteen,” a list of those items that bear the least amount of residue. Avocados, which top the less toxic list, are nearly pesticide-free even when conventionally grown; just 1 percent of the fruit sampled showed remnants of farming chemicals.
“We are saying, eat your fruits and vegetables,” Sonya Lunder, EWG’s senior analyst, said in a statement. “But know which ones have the highest amounts of pesticides so you can opt for the organic versions, if available and affordable, or grab a snack off the ‘Clean Fifteen.’ ”
Sweet bell peppers
Snap peas (imported)
Kale and collard greens
Sweet peas (frozen)