Organic food continues to gain more and more of a foothold in American commercial farm practices, but some crops still carry pesticide residue with them all the way to the supermarket. The savvy and health-conscious consumer has to stay ahead of potential toxins in his or her food by staying informed about which fruits and vegetables are exposed to harmful chemicals during cultivation.
10 most toxic fruits and vegetables
The Environmental Working Group's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides (see Resource 1) lists the following fruits and vegetables as the top 10 with the most pesticide residue:
1. Peaches - Almost 100% of the samples tested positive for pesticides. Additionally, peaches were most likely to test positive for multiple pesticides.
2. Apples - 19 out of every 20 samples tested positive for at least one pesticide.
3. Nectarines - These had close to the same statistics as peaches. And more than 4 out of 5 tested positive for multiple pesticides.
4. Strawberries - Some samples tested positive for up to 38 different pesticides.
6. Grapes - Only imported grapes are on this list. Domestic grapes are more heavily regulated. But substances not allowed here are allowed to be used on foreign crops that are then imported to the United States.
8. Sweet Bell Peppers - One sample tested positive for 11 different pesticides, 64 pesticides on this vegetable were found overall.
9. Celery - 19 out of every 20 samples tested positive, and nearly 4 out of 5 tested positive for more than multiple pesticides.
10. Kale - Except for the pesticides, this green is one of those most healthy single foods, chock-full of nutrition.
5 fruits and vegetables found with the most illegal substances
The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (see Resource 2) found substances banned in the United States on the following five foods:
1. Snow Peas - from Guatemala
2. Chili Peppers - produced in Mexico
3. Papayas- also from Mexico
4. Ginger - grown in China
5. Bok Choy - cultivated in California
Where found, anything with illegal substances on it is either destroyed or returned to the source. Further testing ensures compliance before foods from those growers can return to the marketplace.
How to lessen pesticide exposure
Even if you do purchase foods likely to carry pesticide residue, there are steps you can take to limit your exposure:
1. Wash the produce thoroughly.
2. Peel the skin of the produce and discard it.
3. Change your buying practices to substitute fruits and vegetables less likely to have toxic substances on them.