Avoid Toxic Food, Buy OrganicWhile it is best to buy only organically grown food, avoiding the most toxic produce will greatly reduce your pesticide intake.
Food scares in recent months – from E. coli in spinach to toxins in fish – have a growing number of consumers buying organic food.
But are organics – foods free of growth hormones, chemicals, conventional pesticides and genetically modified ingredients – worth their higher cost?
It depends on the product.
Organic is better when it comes to 12 fruits and vegetables that typically contain higher levels of pesticides, according to the Environmental Work Group (EWG), a nonprofit research organization in Washington, D.C.
The “Dirty Dozen” are conventionally grown peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, imported grapes, spinach, lettuce and potatoes.
Consumers who switch to organic versions of these foods could cut their pesticide exposure by almost 90 percent, according to EWG. It analyzed nearly 43,000 tests conducted by the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration between 2000 and 2004.
Produce with the least amount of pesticides – and ones you probably do not need to pay organic prices for – include onions, avocados, frozen sweet corn, pineapples, mangoes, asparagus, frozen sweet peas, kiwi, bananas, cabbage, broccoli and papaya, according to the EWG study.
Health-conscious consumers also may want to seek organic meat, poultry, eggs and dairy.
According to the February issue of Consumer Reports, organic alternatives do not contain hormones and antibiotics that have been linked to increased antibacterial resistance in humans.
But avoid paying premium prices for processed organic foods, such as breads, oils, chips, pasta, cereal or canned fruit and vegetables.
Although they may have lower levels of contaminants, “they offer limited health value because processing tends to wash away important nutrients,” the Consumer Reports editors wrote.
Organic seafood is another misnomer.
There are no federal or state organic standards in place for fish and seafood, which means producers and merchants can make their own claims as long as they do not use “USDA” or “certified organic” on labels, according to the Organic Consumers Association Web site.
In addition, fish and seafood – whether wild or farmed – can be labeled organic and still have contaminants such as mercury and PCBs.
Last year, California became the first state to ban “organic” labeling on seafood and fish until a federal standard is set.
sweet bell peppers
frozen sweet corn
frozen sweet peas
Salt Lake Tribune, Kathy Stephenson