Friday, January 28, 2011

Chemicals in Our Food: The Dirty Dozen

At this point of my life, it is financially impossible for me to have a completely organic diet. I do want to avoid pesticides as much as possible though, while staying within a reasonable budget.

So which grocery products are the most pesticide contaminated? According to information recently released by the FDA and the USDA, the dirty dozen are:

1. Meat
Raising animals with conventional modern methods often means using hormones to speed up growth, antibiotics to resist disease on crowded feed lots, and both pesticides and chemical fertilizers to grow the grain fed to the animals. So typical meat is bad for you, and bad for the environment.

2. Milk
According to an article this week in the NYT, the FDA intended to begin tests this month on the milk from farms that had repeatedly sold cows tainted by drug residue. But the testing plan met with fierce protest from the dairy industry, and as a result the FDA has their postponed plans. 

Until there is some government oversight on milk – best to go organic or leave it out of your diet completely. There are many other ways to get calcium, and milk is hard to digest. Taking a look around the animal kingdom you will notice that humans are the only mammals to consume milk in adulthood. Which makes you wonder if we even need it at all.

3. Coffee
Many of the beans we buy are grown in countries that don't regulate use of chemicals and pesticides. Further, since coffee is almost exclusively grown in third world countries, make sure to look for Free Trade labels on your packages to ensure that your purchase supports farmers who are paid fairly and treated well.

4. Celery
Celery was ranked #1 most contaminated food in the 2010 analysis. And since it doesn’t have skin, it is almost impossible to wash off the chemicals that are used on conventional crops.

5. Peaches
They ranked #2 most contaminated food in 2010.

6. Strawberries
They ranked #3 on the 2010 dirty food list. In part this is because when you buy strawberries in the off season, they are imported from developing nations that don’t have pesticide regulations.

7. Apples
Even scrubbing and peeling the skins can’t take the heavy chemicals off. In 2009 they were the #2 most contaminated food.

8. Blueberries
A conventionally-grown blueberry has more than 52 chemical residues present on its skin.

9. Bell Peppers
Due to their thin skins, the pesticides soak into the heart of the bulb.

10. Cherries
Cherries grown in the U.S. were found to have three times more pesticide residue than imported cherries.

11. Grapes
What is the most interesting with this one is that since wine is made with grapes, my favorite liquid beverage often has at least 34 chemicals present. YIKES!

12. Leafy Greens
The collective veggie group are frequently contaminated with what are considered the most potent pesticides used on food.

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