Monday’s mission – memorize or download the Dirty Dozen list published by the Environmental Working Group. What is the Dirty Dozen you ask? I am not referring to the 1967 film, but rather produce. The very produce you probably have in your home now. This is a list of the top 12 items that, when consumed, supply your body with over 90% of your chemical load from fruits and vegetables. YUCK!
About the pesticides found –
Why are these produce items so bad for you? They are heavily contaminated with pesticides. Two of these are Benomyl and Carbaryl, these have five known pronounced effects. They are known to cause cancer and birth defects in animals. In humans they damage the reproductive system, interfere with hormones, and damage the brain and nervous system. Benomyl and Carbaryl has been found in spinach. Benomyl is also present in peaches and strawberries, while Carbaryl is present in peaches, strawberries, raspberries, nectarines, imported grapes, cherries, bell peppers, and apples. Another major pesticide is Captan, a carcinogen that causes birth defects in animals. In humans it damages the reproductive system, the brain and nervous system, and the immune system. Captan has found a home in peaches, strawberries, raspberries, pears, imported grapes, and apples.
Another one of the pesticides found on produce repeatedly was DDT, which was banned in the United States after December 31, 1972. Samples taken of spinach and potatoes in a 2001 report both contained DDT.
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, “In soil, DDT lasts for a very long time because it binds strongly to soil particles. Once attached, DDT and its byproducts can persist for as long as 15 years. Moreover, when bound to soil particles, DDT can begin to bioaccumulate, building up in plants and in the fatty tissue of the fish, birds, and animals that eat the plants. Despite a longstanding ban in this country, the United States exported more than 96 tons of DDT in 1991.” The NRDC reported the presence of DDT in breast milk, although there has been a decline in countries that have banned or restricted this chemical. DDT was banned because it caused significant damage to wildlife around the world and was a suspected link to breast and liver cancer. It was also believed to hinder embryo development and reproduction. More information from the NRDC can be found at http://www.nrdc.org/
Organic produce means that it is pestecide free, and also “non GMO” – Watch about that here –
How do I memorize all of that?
If you are crazy busy like me, and simply don’t have the ability to remember “one more thing” ~ rest assured, there is a solution! The iTunes store has a free app for iPhone and iTouch called “Dirty Produce”. If you do a search for the Environmental Working Group, it comes up. This is very helpful, because you can have the list with you all the time, which makes it convenient for grocery shopping. I know personally I would never remember the entire list, and I don’t know how many times I have used this app while in the produce section!
Now that you have all of this information, how in the world do you keep your family safe!?!??! If you are anything like me, you can not afford to go 100% organic every time you shop. Produce is expensive, and so is the other things you need to buy. The solution? Focus on those foods that come with the heaviest burden of pesticides, additives and hormones. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), consumers can reduce their pesticide exposure by 80% by avoiding the most contaminated fruits and vegetables and eating only the cleanest. If consumers get their USDA-recommended 5 daily servings of fruits and veggies from the 15 most contaminated, they could consume an average of 10 pesticides a day. Those who eat the 15 least contaminated conventionally grown produce ingest less than 2 pesticides daily. Please remember this list also holds true for baby foods as well.
The Dirty Dozen List
Here is the list of all 47 items – Those Ranked #1 (toward the top) are the “worst” contaminated, always buy organic. Those ranked near #47 (toward the bottom) are the least contaminated. (Taken from http://www.foodnews.org/fulllist.php)
|FRUIT OR VEGGIE||SCORE|
|1 (worst)||Peach||100 (highest pesticide load)|
|3||Sweet Bell Pepper||83|
|10||Grapes – Imported||66|
|21||Grapes – Domestic||44|
|41||Sweet Peas – Frozen||10|
|45||Sweet Corn – Frozen||2|
1 (lowest pesticide load)
Note: We ranked a total of 47 different fruits and vegetables but grapes are listed twice because we looked at both domestic and imported samples.
The EWG Methodology – (taken from http://www.foodnews.org/methodology.php)
The Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides ranks pesticide contamination for 47 popular fruits and vegetables based on an analysis of 87,000 tests for pesticides on these foods, conducted from 2000 to 2007 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration. Nearly all the studies used to create the list test produce after it has been rinsed or peeled. Contamination was measured in six different ways and crops were ranked based on a composite score from all categories.
The six measures of contamination we used were:
- Percent of the samples tested with detectable pesticides
- Percent of the samples with two or more pesticides
- Average number of pesticides found on a sample
- Average amount (level in parts per million) of all pesticides found
- Maximum number of pesticides found on a single sample
- Number of pesticides found on the commodity in total
The philosophy behind the guide is simple: give consumers the information they need to make choices to reduce pesticides in their diets. In this spirit, the Guide does not present a complex assessment of pesticide risks, but instead simply reflects the overall load of pesticides found on commonly eaten fruits and vegetables. This approach best captures the uncertainty of the risks of pesticide exposure and the value judgments involved in the choice to buy food with less pesticides.
Pesticides cause many adverse effects in well designed animal studies, from cancer to nervous system damage to reproductive effects. Rather than assign more weight to cancer than birth defects, we simply assumed that all adverse effects are equal. There is a significant degree of uncertainty about the health effects of pesticide mixtures. This ranking takes this uncertainty into account in the most defensible way possible, by simply ranking fruits and vegetables by their likelihood of being consistently contaminated with the greatest number of pesticides at the highest levels.
What will you do now?
HAPPY ORGANIC PRODUCE SHOPPING!