By Dr. Carrie Jones
Going to the grocery store these days can be overwhelming. Between trying to decipher the numbers on labels, understanding if locally grown is the same as organic and just trying to choose healthy -- it's no wonder there is so much confusion and frustration!
Every year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) does research based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on fruits and vegetables to determine which ones are the cleanest.
For 2012, the EWG compiled their "Dirty Dozen" list to include in order of worst to less (yes, that's "less," not "least"): apples, celery, sweet bell peppers, peaches, strawberries, nectarines (imported), grapes, spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, blueberries (domestic) and potatoes.
Their "Clean Fifteen" list includes: onions, sweet corn, pineapple, avocado, cabbage, sweet peas, asparagus, mangoes, eggplant, kiwi, cantaloupe (domestic), sweet potatoes, grapefruit, watermelon, and mushrooms.
These foods are generally considered safe whether they are organic or not as they typically have the least amount of pesticides in them unlike the dirty dozen that should be bought organic.
The EWG also looked at baby foods for the first time, and reported that those with green beans or pears were the most affected with pesticides while sweet potatoes were the safest.
For those of you who plan to visit farm stands or "you-pick" places for fruits and vegetables this summer, talk with the owners about their methods of growing and farming.
Do they use conventional pesticides, herbicides and insecticides? Are they a certified organic farm or in the process of becoming so?
Are they not certified organic (as the process can be expensive and lengthy) but practice by the same rules?
Additionally, when reading the labels on your fruits and vegetables at the store, it's important to know your numbers.
Conventionally-grown foods have a label with 4-digits, organically grown have 5-digits and start with a 9. Genetically engineered foods also have 5-digits but start with an 8.
For example, an organic banana would be 94011. A conventionally grown banana would be 4011 and genetically engineered are 84011.
Lastly, labeling something as "100% organic," "organic" and "made with organic ingredients" do not mean the same thing. Naturally, "100% organic" must be just that -- 100 percent organic. Something labeled "organic" must be 95 percent organic and "made with organic ingredients" products have to be at least 70 percent organic.
Educate yourself and your family and if given a choice, opt for organic foods if you can and start reading the labels at the store. Remember to "dine on the number 9."
1. Apples Again Top 'Dirty Dozen' List for Pesticides. Web. 20 June, 2012. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/765987
2. Organic Labeling And Marketing Information. Web. 20 June, 2012. http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELDEV3004446&acct=nopgeninfo
3. PLU Codes. Web. 20 June, 2012.
Reviewed June 20, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith
By Dr. Carrie Jones