The Environmental Working Group have a great guide to organic fruit and veg, called the Dirty Dozen. These are 12 fruits and vegetables that have high levels of pesticide residues, and that are really worth buying organic.
However, this is based on US fruit and veg, and it’s slightly different here in Australia.
As a general rule, tree fruits, berries and leafy greens (including herbs, it’s worth noting) have the highest residues. Fruits and vegetables with thick skins have much lower levels of pesticide residues.
I think that I could probably guess which fruit and vegetables have the most pesticide residues, as they’re the ones that I had problems growing in my organic garden! Anything that the pests get into at home, by my reckoning means that commercial growers have problems with, too, and need to use lots of pesticides.
There are three groups of things that you should really buy organic, and they’re pretty easy to remember:
- Soft fleshed produce – stonefruit, grapes, berries
- Edible skin produce – carrots, apples, pears, capsicums, celery
- Leafy greens – lettuce, spinach, leafy herbs like parsley.
As a general rule, if you have to peel the skin, like a banana or an avocado – it’s a safe alternative. Same with thick skinned produce like watermelons or oranges.
Here’s a handy guide to the Australian Dirty Dozen
- Peaches, apricots, nectarines, plums, cherries
- Kiwi fruits
- Citrus fruit – oranges, grapefruit, tangerines
- Sweet Potatoes
Although potatoes are on the EWG’s Dirty Dozen, Australian potatoes have been tested and show almost no chemical residues, so paying extra for organic may not be worthwhile in this respect.
- Make sure you wash all fruit and veg – both organic and non organic – really well
- Peel the skins off, especially on potatoes, carrots, stonefruit, apples, pears and cucumbers.
- Grow some of your own – lettuce, spinach and herbs are especially easy to grow in pots or in your back yard.
See the CHOICE magazine article for comments on Australian organic foods: http://www.choice.com.au/reviews-and-tests/food-and-health/food-and-drink/organic-and-free-range/organic-food.aspx
According to the Victorian Department of Primary Industries, testing of Victorian produce for chemical residues shows that they are cleaner than like-testing in other countries. http://www.dpi.vic.gov.au/agriculture/farming-management/chemical-use/agricultural-chemical-use/chemical-residues/chemical-residues
Friends of the Earth study: http://www.foe.org.au/sites/default/files/TheDoseMakesThePoisonFeb2012_0.pdf
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