Guide to Shopping for Safer Produce


Unlike organic foods, conventional produce is often treated with pesticides and other chemicals while it’s being grown and after it’s been harvested. The pesticides are typically made from some of the most toxic substances available, and their residues often remain on the foods we buy in the supermarket.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) examined over 100,000 federal government pesticide residue test results and found that 192 different chemicals were present in varying amounts on common fruits and vegetables. Based on this analysis, the EWG ranked these 10 foods as the most contaminated, starting with the worst (peaches).

1. Peaches
2. Apples
3. Sweet Bell Peppers
4. Celery
5. Nectarines
6. Strawberries
7. Cherries
8. Lettuce
9. Grapes (Imported)
10. Pears

Best on the list were onions, avocados, and frozen sweet corn.
For the complete list see FoodNews from the EWG.

Regardless of where your favorite fruits and vegetables fall on the EWG list, all conventional produce should be washed before being eaten. Although washing can’t completely eradicate pesticide contamination, it can make your food much healthier to eat.

Steps for washing produce:

1) Use a glass bowl or your sink for washing produce. The stuff you’re removing will leave behind residues, and glass bowls and sinks are much easier to clean than plastic.

2) Most pesticides are oil-based so you’ll need some soap for the job. Your choices include products like Clean Greens and other specifically formulated washes, or a vegetable-based product like Seventh Generation dish liquid.

3) Fill the bowl with lukewarm to semi-hot water. The temperature you choose will depend on the fragility of the produce you’re cleaning. Generally, the warmer the water, the more effective the cleaning will be, so don’t be afraid to add a little heat if your produce can take it. Always finish with a cold water rinse.

4) Add a teaspoon of soap, agitate the water until it gets sudsy, toss in the produce, and soak it for a few minutes. Use less time for thin-skinned foods like berries, more for hard skinned foods like celery.

5) After soaking, start scrubbing!. Hard skinned foods like peppers and apples can be scrubbed with a vegetable brush. Soft-skinned foods like peaches will require a gentle hand washing. Delicate items like berries won’t be able to take either so just agitate them gently.

6) Rinse the food thoroughly in as warm water as possible, finish with a cold water rinse, and place the food on a rack or other surface to dry. Or use a salad spinner for faster results. Again, be careful with berries!

7) Scrub clean whatever container you used. You’ve just washed off some nasty stuff, and a good cleaning gets it out of your kitchen.

Even food you’re planning to peel, from bananas to eggplants, should be washed first because you can easily transfer pesticide residues from its skin to the edible portions inside.

8) Make sure the counter where you will put your washed produce is free of chemicals, including those found in many conventional kitchen cleaners.

Reprinted from Seventh Generation


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