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Updated Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Food Safety Research Center page and our Health Issues page.

 Research has shown that pesticides and other agricultural chemicals are neurotoxins and can cause disruptions to your neurological system and your brain. The reason why neurotoxins still enjoy widespread use on our fresh food supply is really more about the bottom line for farming operations than it is about the science of human health.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers 60 percent of herbicides, 90 percent of fungicides, and 30 percent of insecticides to be carcinogenic. All of these toxins are permitted on conventional farms, and any number of them can end up on your plate when you purchase conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables.

The increased use of genetically engineered Bt hybrid plants1 and soil insecticides also increases the chemical load in food - particularly processed foods.

These man-made neurotoxic chemicals can bioaccumulate in your body, as they resist breaking down in water and also accumulate and store in fat, where they can remain for long periods of time.

In short, this means your body has a very hard time getting rid of them once they enter your body. The answer, of course, is to limit your exposure as much as possible, giving your body a chance to eliminate the toxins you do inadvertently ingest. One food that can help with detoxification is fermented foods.

Updated Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce

Your best bet is to buy only organic fruits and vegetables, as synthetic agricultural chemicals are not permissible under the USDA organic rules. That said, not all conventionally grown fruits and vegetables are subjected to the same amount of pesticide load.

And with food prices rising, many are looking for ways to buy the healthiest foods possible at the lowest cost.

One such way would be to focus on purchasing certain organic items, while "settling" for others that are conventionally-grown. To do this, I recommend familiarizing yourself with the Environmental Working Group's (EWG's) annual Shoppers' Guide to Pesticides in Produce.

Of the 48 different fruit and vegetable categories tested by the EWG for the 2013 guide, the following 15 fruits and vegetables had the highest pesticide load, making them the most important to buy or grow organically:   

Apples
Celery
Cherry
tomatoes
Cucumbers
Grapes
Hot peppers
Nectarines
(imported)
Peaches
Potatoes
Spinach
Strawberries
Sweet bell
peppers
Kale
Collard greens
Summer squash


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