Nov 9, 2014

The dirty dozen – foods to buy organic when you can

As an interior designer, I create healthy environments for my clients, children, their extended families and people who use The spaces that I design. It's a natural evolution of kitchen design and advising clients about safer material alternatives, that I also focus on cleaning products and food. In the last few years, we have all become more aware of the quality of food that we purchase. The introduction of farm stands or farmers markets in urban areas, grocery chains offering sections with organic and locally grown produce, and spreading knowledge about the toxicity of chemicals used to grow fruits and vegetables, has made this possible.

There are a number of organizations that repeatedly test our food for the presence of pesticides and chemicals. It has resulted in the development of "the dirty dozen "list of foods that you should not buy unless they are organic. This is what I've come up with from my research.

1. Apples
Did you know that apple-picking season is September through November? So how do you get them year-round? They're sprayed with a fungicide to prevent spoilage and then coated with a food-grade wax before being put into cold storage. This grants them the top spot in the Dirty Dozen list. Because pesticides were detected within the flesh of the fruit, peeling and washing doesn't help curb exposure. 

2. Celery
Like apples, you can't peel or wash your way out of this one. Because pesticides need to be diluted before being added to crops, they're water soluble.  Since celery has a high water content, the toxins are sucked directly into the stalk, making it virtually impossible to get around ingesting the pesticides unless you buy organic. 

3. Sweet Bell Peppers
Similar to apples, bell peppers are also coated in food-grade wax, which seals in pesticides and toxins.

4. Strawberries
Like nectarines and peaches, sweet-tasting strawberries are tempting to bugs. To protect the crop, strawberries get sprayed with pesticides that can't be easily removed by washing or scrubbing.

5. Cherry Tomatoes
This one was added recently. Growing conditions can make different crops more vulnerable to certain pests and can result in treating crops with post-harvest fungicides or pesticides. Some cherry tomato crops are sprayed with a neurotoxic pesticide that may affect the developing human nervous system in young children. 

6. Nectarines And Peaches
Because these fruits are sweet, bugs love to feast on them, which means they get a heavy dose of pesticides that can't be easily removed by washing or scrubbing. Every single nectarine the USDA tested had measurable pesticide.

7. Grapes
As a category, grapes have more types of pesticides than any other fruit, with 64 different chemicals. 

8. Cucumbers
Cucumbers are coated in food-grade wax to keep them fresh. Like apples and red peppers, the wax encases any pesticides, making them difficult to remove.

8. Spinach And Lettuce.  Seventy-eight different pesticides were found on the leaves. It's a misnomer that being close to the ground requires more pesticide use. Yet the growers don't always agree, and overdo use-  to your detriment.

10. Hot Peppers
Hot peppers became more vulnerable to certain pests, resulting in an increase in pesticide use. Nearly 10 percent of hot pepper crops tested were found to have above average rates of illegal pesticides.

11. Potatoes
To prevent potatoes from sprouting "eyes" or roots, farmers spray them with toxic compounds, such as lectins, and growth inhibitors, which slow down the growing process and keep potatoes from needing to be refrigerated during storage.

13. Kale And Collared Greens
The pesticides used on these crops are toxic to the nervous system. Even though they have been largely removed from agriculture over the past decade, they aren't banned.