TOP Smart

14 Jan

Pesticides: "clean" and "dirty" fruit and vegetables.

After recent AAP publication that related increased children pesticides exposure to cancer and other diseases mentioned here, we received emails from parents who were concerned about giving their children regular fruit and vegetables but can’t afford buying organic produce. The main question was, if there are some fruit/vegs contaminated more than others, so they could buy at least those organic. Generally, it depends on fruit/vegetable skin structure. The main question is: does this fruit/vegetable have any protection from external hazards exposure? For example, thick skin of banana or eggplant protecting it from absorbing too much pesticides.  Peeling fruit and vegetables or removing outer layers of firm leafy greens is also a great way to cut back on pesticide intake. Thin permeable skin of strawberry and peach, however, makes no barrier and easily absorb pesticides. Such fruit retain high levels of pesticides even after they have been washed and as the result the concentration of chemicals there is way too high from being harmless. Below are some examples of food that are definitely worth buying organic:

Apples (last few years fluctuate between first and second place on highest pesticide content list)
Strawberries (esp. when off season imported from countries with heavy pesticide treatment and no regulation)
Peaches
Nectarines (imported)
Grapes (esp. imported)
Celery
Pears
Sweet bell pepper
Cherries
Spinach
Lettuce
Cucumbers
Blueberry (domestic)
Potato (treated with strong fungicides that are easily absorbed even through the skin)
Green beans
Kale/greens
Red raspberries
Baby food (any)

When off season, we have to remember that term “organic” defines only growth condition and say nothing about transportation or storage. Organic apple that came from Mexico had to survive the transportation and probably was covered with other chemical substances for this reason. So any non local fruit and vegetables has to be scrubbed or washed thoroughly to remove any protection layers.

Coffee is not a vegetable but it’s a significant source of pesticides in our diet. Coffee farms are heavily dependent upon pesticides and herbicides. Also, areas of the world where coffee is often grown usually do not have any restrictions or regulations on chemical use.


Vegetables and fruit that less critical to buy organic if we take out the skin or outer leaves are:

Onion
Pineapple
Avocado
Cabbage (outer leaves out)
Sweet peas
Asparagus
Mango
Eggplant
Kiwi
Domestic cantaloupe
Sweet potato
Grapefruit
Watermelon
Mushroom
Papaya
Banana

Sweet corn is questionary. It’s relatively clean from pesticides as it protected with outer leaves but if you buy the non organic version, you have a good chance that it will be genetically modified.

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