An Apple a Day, May Not Keep the Doctor Away…

…Unless it is organic, that is.

The US based, Environmental Working Group (EWG) have just released their latest audit on the pesticide residues in foods and apples top the list again.  In most commercial orchards, apples are sprayed 10-20 times per season.  I remember watching a documentary once that included an apple grower who said that he never ate his own apples, because he knew what was sprayed on them!

The group released the “dirty dozen” for the eighth year in a row – compiling a list of the most toxic fruits and vegetables, from the highest residue down to the least.

NB: ** Lists change each year;  see end of article for latest links.

  • Apples
  • Celery
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Peaches
  • Strawberries
  • Nectarines (imported)
  • Grapes
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Cucumbers
  • Blueberries (domestic)
  • Potatoes

I have always given my clients a list of the foods most likely to be contaminated with pesticide residue – and advised them to buy the organic version where possible.  This is particularly important for babies and children who eat proportionately more fruits and vegetables, weight for weight, compared to adults. Children also have a more immature liver function and are less capable of detoxifying the chemicals.

The “clean 15” list shows the foods that had the lowest pesticide residue

  • Onions
  • Sweet corn
  • Pineapples
  • Avocado
  • Cabbage
  • Sweet peas
  • Asparagus
  • Mangoes
  • Eggplant
  • Kiwi
  • Cantaloupe (domestic)
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Grapefruit
  • Watermelon
  • Mushrooms

Baby foods were assessed for the first time and while sweet potato came up the cleanest, most samples containing green beans and pears tested positive for pesticide residues.

It can help to be able to shop with these two lists in mind, especially when needing to manage the family budget but still wanting to be mindful of the health of your family!

While the overall risk of these foods needs to be assessed in light of the amount consumed and the toxicity of each pesticide, we do not know of the effect of the cocktail of different chemicals our bodies are exposed to day in and day out. While many chemicals are hard to avoid, if we can minimize the chemicals we ingest through food, then we can have a positive effect on our health.

According to the EWG, pesticide exposure is linked with a range of other health problems, including hormone disruption, cancer, brain toxicity, and skin, eye, and lung irritation.  Of course, other chemical food additives are also detrimental to health – including artificial food colourings, flavourings and preservatives – which are found in abundance in modern processed foods.

While many people believe that organic fruit and vegetables are more expensive, when buying in season and local, the prices are often quite similar.  Growing your own is of course the best way to do this!  Even growing a few fresh herbs and leafy greens can be done in the smallest of spaces or in pots.

** These lists are updated every year and can change **
The latest 2019 figures can be found here: