Every year the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit with a mission to use the power of public information to protect civic health and the environment, releases a guide to pesticide levels found on fruits and vegetables. After months of delay, due to the postponement of Food & Drug Administration reports and agribusiness lobbying, EWG was finally able to publish their 2011 rankings. This latest release provides the most up to date information on the safety of our produce in the United States. It’s presented in an easy to digest format with the most toxic fruits and vegetables being placed on a “Dirty Dozen” list and the least toxic being awarded placement on a “Clean Fifteen” group.
While most items on the list have made only modest moves from their 2010 rankings, there were some notable changes that are of interest:
- Apples jumped three spots to surpass celery as the produce with the highest levels of pesticides tested.
- Cilantro made an auspicious first appearance on the list with 33 unapproved pesticides detected, the most ever recorded since EWG started tracking the data in 1995. Overall it fell just outside the toxic “Dirty Dozen” coming in with the thirteenth worst score.
- Other first timers are green onions and cranberries which landed in the middle of all produced measured; while mushrooms made made their way onto the “Clean Fifteen”.
- Improving it’s score were cherries which squeezed their way off the “Dirty Dozen” list.
- Lettuce which came off the “Dirty Dozen” in 2010 found it’s way back in 2011.
- Honeydew Melon’s fell off the “Clean Fifteen”.
Because most samples on the EWG Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce are washed and peeled prior to being tested, the rankings reflect the amounts of the chemicals likely present on the food when eaten. Seeing that an everyday fruit such as the apple or a popular herb like cilantro are still full of toxic chemicals even after being washed is a sobering reminder that it’s best to buy organic whenever possible.
One of Farmanac’s primary goals is to protect consumers from toxic pesticides and like EWG we believe information presented in an easy to digest manner is powerful. To that end we encourage you to print out the latest Shopper’s Guide and use it the next time you visit the market. Better yet, if you want a high tech solution, head over to iTunes and download Farmanac which uses their 2010 guide as a basis for all our pesticide scores. I can promise you we’ll soon be updating the app with the scores from 2011.