The Environmental Working Group recently released their seventh version of the most toxic fruits and vegetables, called "The Dirty Dozen." Along with it they give their "Clean Fifteen" list of the fruits and vegetables with the least amount of agricultural chemicals present.
This list is based on the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) pesticide data program results for 2009. The USDA tested 53 different fruits and vegetables (no meats, fish, dairy, grains, legumes or beverages) for a number of agricultural chemical residues and reported what percentage of the individual food had residues of each chemical present and how great the contamination was. While there are far more than 53 fruits and vegetables available, these 53 comprise the bulk of fruits and vegetables that are consumed in this country.
According to the latest USDA report, EWG has moved apples to the number one, most polluted spot. Very close to 100 percent of all the 700 apples tested by the USDA had pesticides on them. All of the fruits and vegetables that are tested are prepared according to the way they are normally consumed. Apples typically are consumed with the peels intact, so this is the way the USDA measured them. Bananas are always peeled before eating, and they are normally found on the least toxic list. The good news here is that most of the pesticides and fungicides are found on the peel, so if you want to peel your apples you can eliminate close to 100 percent of the pesticide residue.
I have spoken with many patients, students and colleagues that have experienced adverse reactions to apples. This often comes in the form of numbness, tingling or swelling of the mouth, lips and tongue. One internist that I know referred to this as an "apple peel allergy." But, when these same individuals eat an organic apples this reaction does not occur. The reaction is due to the chemical residue.
The second and third "most toxic" spots were occupied by celery and strawberries. Strawberries had long held the most toxic spot and celery has been in the top 12 for years as well.
For the first time the USDA also tested the commonly used herb, cilantro. Unfortunately, 33 unapproved pesticides were found on the cilantro samples tested. In all, close to half of the cilantro samples turned out to be contaminated. While it did not quite make it onto the Dirty Dozen list, it still worth knowing about since it cannot easily be peeled! The best solution here is to grow some cilantro in pots on your porch or backyard. Just don't spray it with pesticides.
Blueberries were still on Dirty Dozen list, although the majority of pesticides found were on the fruit in infintesimal levels -- most likely due to drift from other crops.
It should be kept in mind that organophosphate pesticides were originally produced as warfare nerve gases. In fact, an organophosphate product was used in a Tokyo subway attack in 1995. These were also compounds used in the chemical warfare SCUD missiles that Sadam Hussein used during the Gulf War. So, unless you are feeling particularly deficient in a chemicals, you may wish to choose organic varieties of these toxic foods. Or, just choose to chow down on the Clean Fifteen.
Sweet Bell Peppers
Domestic Blueberries (frozen ones are OK)