Monday, March 30, 2009

Shopping for Organic Produce

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., released their 5th annual "Shopper's Guide to Pesticides" on March 10th, 2009.

The Shopper's Guide to Pesticides is a tool that will help you identify fruits and vegetables that are the most susceptible to pesticide residue. Choosing organic for the produce determined as the “Dirty Dozen” can reduce pesticide exposure by up to 80 percent. You'll notice that fruits and vegetables that have thin skins are more likely to have a higher amount of pesticides.

The "Clean 15" are fruits and vegetables that have the lowest levels of pesticides. Since buying organic may not be feasible if you're on a tight budget, stock up on the "Clean 15" more often.

Remember that you need to incorporate fruits and veggies in your diet for necessary nutrients!

Image courtesy of the Environmental Working Group

Download Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides (It will be available as an iPhone application soon)

The full list of 47 fruits and vegetables

Read EWG's recent statement: Organic Fruit and Veggies Still Recommended

The Organic Center also has a Pocket Guide for reducing pesticide dietary exposure - It is more extensive and considers the pesticide exposure to farmers, citizens and wildlife who live near farms that use harmful pesticides.

What is Organic?

The USDA National Organic Program's (NOP) definition of organic:

Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Before a product can be labeled "organic," a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too. (Consumer Brochure, USDA National Organic Program,

What to Look for on Labels When Buying Organic:

  • A food that has a "100% organic" label will have no synthetic ingredients and can legally use the USDA organic seal.

  • A food that is labeled as just "organic" has to have at least 95% organic ingredients and can use the USDA organic seal.

  • A food that has a label that says "made with organic ingredients" must contain at least 70% organic ingredients with strict restrictions on the remaining 30% including no GMOs (genetically modified organisms) . This food can't legally use the USDA organic seal.

  • Products that use less than 70% organic ingredients are able to list organically produced ingredients on the side of the package, but aren't able to put organic claims on the front of the package.

Reducing Pesticide Residues:
  • Wash and scrub produce under running water to remove dirt, bacteria and surface pesticide residues. Make sure you also wash produce that has inedible skin such as cantaloupe. You don't need to use soap. (Make sure to wash organic produce this way as well)

  • Remove the peel from fruits and vegetables.

  • Remove the outer leaves from leafy vegetables

  • Try to eat a variety of foods from various sources.


angela@SpinachTiger said...

Good INformation. I'm getting ready to post this week reasons to purchase organic free range chicken. The more information we can share, the more influence we can have on consumer purchases and food industry. I also like the name of your blog.

Dina said...

Thanks Angela. I really believe that if people start buying organic more often, the prices will eventually go down. I know it's more expensive, but your health is so much more important!

Unfortunatly some cities don't offer organic produce at all. I hope that changes soon!

I'm looking forward to your post about organic free range chicken!

Thanks again.