When Is It Worthwhile To Buy Organic?

Want to avoid eating pesticides without breaking the bank on organics? The handy “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides” makes it easy to keep track of which fruits and vegetables are likely to have bug spray all over them and which are not. Peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, and strawberries head up the “dirty dozen” with the highest pesticide load. At the bottom: onions, avocados, frozen sweet corn, pineapple, and mangoes, which have so little pesticide, you’re better off buying conventionally grown varieties (unless you’re rich).

A study by the Environmental Working Group found that “people people can lower their pesticide exposure by almost 80 percent by avoiding the top twelve most contaminated fruits and vegetables and eating the least contaminated instead.”

Eating the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables will expose a person to about 10 pesticides per day, on average. Eating the 15 least contaminated will expose a person to less than 2 pesticides per day.

The guide is available as an iPhone app, a PDF, and printable HTML page. Unfortunately, it doesn’t cover foods beyond fruits and vegetables, such as grains and meats. According to Consumer Reports, baby food, meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy should also head up the list of things you want to buy organically. Just make sure when doing so that you carefully read labels.

Labels including “USDA Organic/Organic,” “Not Treated with rBGH,” “No Hormones Administered or Added” and “Certified Humane” are the real deal. Products labeled “No Antibiotics Used or Administered/Raised without Antibiotics,” “No Hormones Administered” and “Grass-Fed” might also be worth it, although there are loopholes that may make them less meaningful. Buyer beware as “Free Range,” “Free Roaming,” “Cage-Free” and “Natural” have such loose requirements that animals could still have been mistreated.

Shoppers Guide to Pesticides [Environmental Working Group]
Food Labels That Deserve Your Dollars [Reuters]
(Photo: travelinfool55)

Carrie McLaren & Jason Torchinsky are coeditors of Ad Nauseam: A Survivor’s Guide to American Consumer Culture. In previous lives, they worked together on the hopelessly obscure and now defunct Stay Free! magazine .