How many pesticides are in your favourite fresh foods.

There is much debate about the differences between conventional and organic food. It is quite often in the media I hear the argument is organic any better for us? and the ‘experts’ (most likely linked to produce trade groups and pesticide manufacturers) replies are always no, there is no solid scientific proof that organic is healthier!

Well actually there is scientific proof that the 865 different registered pesticides and the many other widely used, unregistered pesticides used on our favourite fresh produce can cause serious harm to our bodies, are toxic and not healthy. This research also shows that the produce tested contains multiple types of pesticides even after thorough washing and peeling. This research is done by independent research scientists and physicians and organisations such as the Environmental Workers Group.

Pesticides are designed to be toxic and kill living organisms — insects, plants, and fungi that are considered pests. Studies have found that pesticides can have multiple negative effects on the human nervous, endocrine and immune system and have been linked with cancer, skin, eye and lung irritation and general toxicity. There is also a lot of research being aimed at pesticide toxicity in children and there have been some alarming findings linking it with impaired intelligence and neurological problems. There have been 3 studies released in 2011 linking exposure to the pesticides organophosphates with damaged nervous system function and stunted brain development in children.

A study led by Chensheng Lu of Emory University found that the children studied had very high levels of pesticides in their bodies especially during summer whilst eating a diet high in fresh produce. After 5 days of consuming an all-organic diet their bodies were pesticide free.

Studies have linked pesticide toxicity with conditions such as ME/CFS and also show that ME/CFS sufferers, compared with controls have much higher levels of pesticide toxicity. Probably due to decreased and impaired ability to detoxify. One study that concluded this was done by independent doctors and researchers in Australia back in 1995. It can be viewed here. ME/CFS specialist Dr Sarah Myhill speaks about how pesticides can act as immune adjuvants which can essentially ‘turn on’ the immune system causing allergies and autoimmunity. Check out her website here.

So what do I do when it comes to avoiding pesticides? I eat all organic. It makes sense to me to avoid these chemicals and I feel I have been a guinea pig long enough. Supporting organics is also great for the environment, supporting sustainable farming practices which do not harm the earth. Buying all organic does not come cheap, so the second option is to buy conventional produce that has been tested and proven to be lower in pesticides and avoid buying produce that is the most toxic. The Environmental Workers Group has done this testing and they provide great information on their website and the 2011 list of the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15. Their website covers the complete list of food tested and you can download the list and print it out. See their FAQ’s section for some commonly asked questions and answers. keeps up to date with the latest research on pesticides as well.

The Dirty Dozen: Foods to buy organic

1. apples
2. celery
3. strawberries
4. peaches
5. spinach
6. nectarines, imported
7. grapes, imported
8. sweet bell peppers
9. potatoes
10. blueberries, domestic
11. lettuce
12. kale collard green

And the clean 15: Ok to buy non-organic

1. onions
2. sweet corn
3. pineapples
4. avocado
5. asparagus
6. sweet peas
7. mangoes
8. eggplant
9. cantaloupe, domestic
10. kiwi
11. cabbage
12. watermelon
13. sweet potatoes
14. grapefruit
15. mushrooms

How do you lower your pesticide intake?

Have you been tested for pesticides?


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