The health benefits of organic versus conventionally grown produce argument rages on, but despite the ongoing lack of support from the medical and science communities, the organic movement in Australia continues to grow and expand. For many Australians however, buying organic remains beyond the budget, so what can we do to minimise our exposure to the toxic pesticide residue in conventionally grown fruits and vegetables?
Twenty years ago in Australia, buying organic was next to impossible due to a lack of suppliers and the exorbitant cost. But as the trend towards an organic lifestyle continues, consumers are benefiting from a healthy level of competition and prices are slowly becoming more affordable. Corporate retailers Coles and Woolworths have jumped on the bandwagon creating their own line of organic products at fiercely competitive prices, with the line now incorporating organic fresh produce. Organic prices still far outweigh non-organic so here's a tip to help avoid pesticide residue without going broke.
Pesticide spraying. Courtesy of sakhorn38/freedigitalphotos.net
Each year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases a list of conventionally grown produce which contains the most, and the least pesticide residue, known as the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen respectively. And they're not referring to the residue found on the skin, it is about the pesticide residue that has been absorbed into the produce and cannot be removed simply by cleaning or cooking.
This year the former list has expanded to a Dirty Dozen Plus, incorporating zucchini and leafy greens such as kale, as they are regularly found to be contaminated with a pesticide toxin which affects the nervous system.
Leafy greens. Couresy of criminalatt/freedigitalphotos.net
So if you can't afford to go completely organic, you can limit your pesticide exposure by avoiding the conventionally grown products of the Dirty Dozen Plus list (products containing the most pesticide residue), and try to buy at least these products organically grown:
3. cherry tomatoes
6. hot peppers
12. sweet bell peppers
Plus: zucchini, kale and collard greens
So sad, strawberries are on the Dirty Dozen list
Then when it comes to The Clean Fifteen (the products found to contain the least amount of pesticide residue), go nuts and buy wherever you can afford to - but do try to purchase produce grown locally or in Australia.
The EWG is U.S. based but Australian farming practices are similar enough to deem the lists relevant; Australia also imports fresh produce from the states. EWG research is carried out on supermarket produce, so shopping at farmer's markets and talking direct to the growers about their farming practices will allow you to make decisions on a product by product, or farm by farm basis. And if all else fails, you could try growing your own food.