So, I suppose now that I’ve thoroughly scared you (In a previous post) with the Environmental Working Group’s "Dirty Dozen" list, it’s probably a good time to tell you that it isn’t all doom and gloom, and the apocalypse. The EWG also has a list called The Clean Fifteen. Think of it as The Dirty Dozen’s less scary and less intimidating sister. As the name implies it’s a list of foods that are considered safer to purchase conventionally. Now keep in mind that when we’re talking about non-organic foods there’s no such thing as a zero percent risk, but because many of these foods aren’t naturally very appealing to pests less pesticides - if any - are used. In other cases the fruit or vegetable in question may have a thick of fibrous shell or skin that keeps pest interaction to a minimum and harmful chemicals at bay, leaving the edible flesh inside relatively unharmed. These fruits and vegetables are as follows...
The Clean Fifteen
3) Sweet Corn*4) Pineapple
6) Sweet Peas
8) Kiwi Fruit
14) Sweet Potatoes
15) Sweet Onions
Hopefully with this list in hand you will feel a little less overwhelmed at the register, as your cashier dutifully scans your items. As I said, I entirely understand the impracticality of everyone buying everything organic 100% of the time, what with the economy the way it is. Which is why the Dirty Dozen list is the best place to start, and this list I think is a great reassurance. This list gives us the power to feel relatively good and safe about those non-organic purchases we make. We can feel confident that we’re cutting down our day to day contact with pesticides, and reducing our bodies pesticide contamination by shopping organic for the dirty and conventional for the clean. We don’t have to burst into tears because we can’t afford the $3.99 Organic Pineapple, but only the $1.99 conventional one. Yet we can trust that it’s okay, because the pineapple has a thick spiky skin that even the most determined of pests most likely don’t want to tangle with. Think about it, you don’t even want to cut into that pineapple with a knife, it’s big, bulky and intimidating even to a human so how is an insect going to whittle it’s way through that bristling outer layer?
Keeping both these lists in mind also gives one a good rule of thumb to shop by. Examine what fruits and vegetables pop up on each list, and next time you’re doing your shopping use that to determine whether or not you should buy items that aren’t on either list in their organic or conventional variations. For example if it’s a sweet thin skinned fruit or vegetable you might want to buy it organic. If it’s a slightly bitter, spicy, potent or thick skinned fruit or vegetable you might be safe to go with the conventional. Although it’s my strong opinion that if you’re buying fruits such as oranges, grapefruits, lemons, or limes with the intention of using their zest in recipes, always, always buy organic. As it’s those thick skins will likely contain a concentrated amount of pesticide, even if the fruit inside is relatively clean.
Now as stated before not even the clean list is 100% clean. Unless you’re buying 100% organic there is no such thing as a 0% risk of pesticide contamination, but when tested the fruits and vegetables that appear on this list tested either low, or with a negligible amount or residue. For me, for now - as I assume for many of you - this is good enough to let me sleep soundly at night, knowing I’m doing the best I can in a complicated and imperfect world.
So as always, shop smart, eat responsibly and if you’re interested in more information please visit the Environmental Working Group’s website - http://www.ewg.org/ - for topics not only concerning the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen, but a wide variety of articles concerning many environmental issues.
(P.S. Keep in mind that just last year Broccoli, Papaya*, and Tomatoes were listed on the Clean Fifteen List, and as they don’t currently appear on the dirty dozen list, these too may be relatively safe to consume conventionally.)
* The * marked items may be relatively clean of chemical pesticides, but they’re still rather nefarious in my opinion for reasons that will be explained in full in an upcoming post. So be on the lookout*