Pesticide Residue in our produce, beware the 'Dirty Dozen'

by Joanne Davies

We enjoy an abundance of fantastic looking produce in New Zealand, with plenty of quality, locally grown produce to choose from. Due to improvements in farming and better distribution worldwide, we also enjoy year-round access to many fruits and vegetables from overseas. However, pesticide residue on some produce may be a cause for concern. 

Most countries monitor the levels of residual pesticides on their produce and establish limits. The US FDA maintains that consuming low levels of pesticides is harmless, but I would rather err on the side of caution, and take steps to avoid serving poisons with the food I prepare.

Organic produce must be the best choice for our health, but the reality for a lot of families does not include that option. Something that makes me feel somewhat happier about the list below, is that a lot of the ‘Dirty Dozen’ are easy to grow and readily available in New Zealand.

Some suggestions:

  • Wash everything - even the parts you don’t use, especially if you are composting. Avoid adding pesticides into your compost. Wash produce you feed to pets too!
  • When washing, consider using warm water and a drop of organic dish detergent or white vinegar to remove residue.
  • Consider peeling foods from the ‘Dirty Dozen+’, especially peaches and apples. The reason for this is that some pesticides can leach into the skin. Sad huh? Don’t compost these peelings.  Organic apples are usually fairly well priced and easy to come by.
  • When growing your own, use organic compost, to ensure you aren’t adding anything nasty to your garden. Know your soil and consider using a raised garden, especially in areas that have previously been used for commercial growing or farming and could therefore contain pesticide residue.
  • Buy local, seasonal produce. It will be fresher, and will come under local laws for pesticide residue.
  • Canned and frozen produce may contain less pesticides, due to the rigorous washing and blanching preparations required.
  • US cherries contain three times the pesticides of locally-grown cherries, which are relatively ‘clean’.
  • Sprouting is cheap and easy to do at home. Sprouts are highly nutritious, fun for children to make and can be a great source of organic produce.

Please note:’Dirty’ list may include pears and green beans. ‘Clean’ inclusions may be bananas.

The article and digram above are intended for use as a quick reference and have been produced as a result of reading articles, not from my own study. Please see references below to check facts and do let us know if you find information that would be beneficial to include. JD

Environmental Working Group - shopper's guide to pesticides in produce - Pesticides and Produce - Which fruits & vegetables contain the most pesicide residue? - Why Organic Matters

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