It’s enough to have you choking on your green juice! The Environmental Working Group (EWG), the organisation that releases an annual list of produce containing the highest levels of pesticide residues, has ranked kale, the dark green leafy ‘superfood’ and staple for healthy eaters, at number three on the 2019 list, otherwise known as the ‘dirty dozen’.
The dirty dozen lists strawberries at number one, followed by spinach, kale, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery and potatoes.
Strawberries earn their notoriety because one-third of all those tested contained 10 or more pesticide residues, while 97% of spinach was found to contain pesticide residues including neurotoxic insecticides – sobering stuff.
There are a range of viewpoints on how concerned we ought to be about pesticide residues. According to Food Standards Australia New Zealand, there is no problem with the residue levels in our fruit and vegetables. Some make the point that it’s better to be eating fresh fruit and vegetables than a diet laden with processed foods, and that an apple is always better for you than a Mars Bar.
However, if you’re trying to do the right thing for your health by eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, then it’s well worth trying to source organic versions of the dirty dozen, especially when you consider that standards in Australia and the US are relatively lax compared to in Europe where there are lower permissible levels of residues. Not to mention the historical lag time in our understanding of what chemicals are safe and what are not; glyphosate being the most contemporary example of a widely used herbicide long deemed safe but now seemingly linked to cancer and the subject of thousands of law suits.
On a happier note, EWG also helpfully ranks the produce with the least pesticide residue, known as the ‘clean fifteen’. Avocados, smashed or otherwise, are top of the clean list followed by sweet corn, pineapples, peas, onions, papayas, eggplants, asparagus, kiwi fruit, cabbage, cauliflower, cantaloupes, broccoli, mushrooms and honeydew melons.
So, to be on the safe side you can continue to source your clean fifteen from the supermarket or fresh food markets but, where possible, buy your spinach, strawberries, kale and co. from an organic supplier.