Organic Food Shopping: When to Skimp, When to Splurge

The US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service reports that organically produced foods can cost 10-30% more than conventionally raised mass produced food. Supply and demand are limited, which accounts for the increase in cost. Farmers have to cut losses because organic food is more vulnerable to disease and insects.

Organically grown produce means that it was not grown through conventional methods of fertilization. Natural fertilizers, like compost and manure, were used to feed the soil and plants. If any pesticides are used, they are natural and from a non-synthetic source. Any machines that are used must hot have been used to apply a synthetic material for at least 3 years and the land has not been previously treated with synthetics.

In a study at Stanford University, researchers compared the nutritional value of conventionally grown and organically grown foods. The results were surprising…even jaw-dropping. There were few differences between the foods except with regard to the amount of pesticides present in produce and in the case of meat, antibiotic-resistance. The decision to go organic is usually made to avoid high pesticide residue and food additives as well as for environmental reasons. Is there a way to take advantage of organic foods without breaking the bank?

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) produced the 2-13 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. It can serve as a guide to avoiding excessive pesticides in produce. Basically, where should we splurge and where can we skimp? Here’s the shortened version:


Apples – 99 percent of apples tested contained pesticides and the most residues overall.

Strawberries – This heart-shaped food is the second most contaminated produce in this “Dirty Dozen” list.

Grapes – Grapes were found to have 64 different chemicals; there were 15 pesticides in one grape.

Celery – This produce was the most contaminated of vegetables, testing positive for 13 different pesticides.

Peaches – These sweet treats rank fifth in most pesticides.

Spinach – The second most contaminated vegetable on the list.

Sweet Bell Peppers – Like grapes, a single sample of sweet bell pepper contained 15 different pesticides.

Imported Nectarines – All nectarines that were imported tested positive for pesticides.

Cucumbers – This popular salad ingredient ranked ninth in the list.

Potatoes – The average potato had a much higher total weight of pesticides in comparison to other food crops.

Cherry Tomatoes – Cherry tomatoes tested positive for 13 different pesticides.

Hot Peppers – These spicy peppers rounded out the list coming in at number 12.

Skimp on these 15 foods below — they contain the least amount of pesticide residue.

Asparagus, Eggplant, Onions, Avocado, Grapefruit, Papaya, Cabbage, Kiwi, Pineapple, Cantaloupe, Mango, Sweet Peas (Frozen), Sweet Corn, Mushrooms, Sweet Potatoes


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