Pesticides and Produce  
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The choice is yours!

Thanks to improvements in farming, shipping and distribution, shoppers today enjoy a wider selection of fresh produce than ever before. However, pesticide residue on some fruits and vegetables can be a cause for concern. In fact, fruits and vegetables on the 'highest levels' list below contain 47 to 67 pesticides per serving.


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Most countries monitor residual levels of pesticides in produce, and establish legal limits for the safety of consumers. In some cases, however, these residual levels may be toxic for children, pregnant women and even pets.The US FDA maintains that consuming pesticides in low amounts is harmless, but some studies show an association between pesticides and health problems such as cancer, attention-deficit (hyperactivity) disorder and nervous system disorders and say exposure could weaken immune systems.

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A study by Consumers Union, the publishers of Consumer Reports magazine, examines and rates the residual levels of pesticides on many common fruits and vegetables. A report by the Environmental Working Group, using data from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, has found that much of the health risks associated with pesticides are concentrated in a relatively small number of fruits and vegetables. The list below is compiled from these reports.

.....Produce with Highest Levels of Pesticide Residue.....


Bell Peppers

Spinach, Lettuce

Cherries (US)

Peaches, Nectarines





Green Beans

Grapes (Chile)



Winter Squash (US)

Potatoes (US)


Vitamin C

Vitamin C
Vitamins A, C

Vitamins A, C, Folic acid

Vitamins A, C

Vitamins A, C, E, Potassium

Vitamins A, C, Potassium

Vitamins A, C, Potassium

Vitamin C, Potassium

Vitamin A, Potassium

Vitamins A, C, Folic acid

Vitamins A, C. Folic acid


Vitamin C, Folic acid

Substitutions (approx. nutritional equivalent)

Blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, kiwi, orange, cantaloupe

Green peas, broccoli, romaine lettuce
Carrots, broccoli, brussels sprouts, tomatoes, asparagrus

Broccoli, brussels sprouts, asparagrus, romaine lettuce

Grapefruit, blueberries, raspberries, cantaloupe, orange

Canned peaches, cantaloupe (US), tangerine, grapefruit, watermelon
Raspberries, raisins, red currant, huckleberries

Carrots, broccoli, radishes, romaine lettuce

Oranges, banana, kiwi, watermelon, tangerine, mango

Cantaloupe (US), watermelon, tangerines, grapefruit

Green peas, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, asparagrus

Grapes (US), in season

Carrots, romaine lettuce, broccoli, radishes

Canned pears, canned peaches, oranges

Winter squash (Honduras, Mexico), sweet potatoes (US)

Sweet potatoes (US), carrots, winter squash (Honduras, Mexico)

.....Produce with Lowest Levels of Pesticide Residue.....
- vitamins A, C, folic acid

Sweet Corn (frozen)- carotenoids, folic acid

Onions - trace vitamins, carotenoids

Cabbage - vitamin C, potassium

Cauliflower - vitamin C, potassium

Brussels Sprouts - folic acid, vitamins A, C

Eggplant - vitamins A, C, folic acid

Mangoes - beta carotene, vitamin C

Grapefruit - vitamins A, C, calcium

Bananas - potassium, vitamin C

Kiwi Fruit - vitamin C

Asparagrus - folic acid, vitamins A, C

Watermelon - potassium, vitamins A, C

Broccoli - potassium, vitamins A, C

Cantaloupe (US) - vitamin A, C, calcium

Sweet Peas (frozen) - beta carotene, niacin

Information Sources:
  Consumers Union
Environmental Working Group
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
San Diego Earth Times
Environmental Protection Agency

How To Make Produce Safer

Buy Organic
Produce which is "Certified Organic" will cost more, but is your best assurance of pesticide-free status. Although the chart above is useful, it is not 100% accurate; growing methods can change, and country-of-origin considerations make it more difficult to know exactly what you're buying. For example, the US exports annually 100 - 150 million lbs. of banned (in the US) pesticides, and then imports fruit which may be grown using these pesticides. Buying organic, in-season produce from your local market is the best assurance of pesticide-free produce. If you are on a limited budget, look for organic choices for the produce your family eats the most.

Vegetable and Fruit Washes

Commercial vegetable and fruit washes are available which are formulated to remove chemical residue from produce. Examples are Environné and Vitanet, available online or at your local health food stores and some supermarkets. You can also make your own produce wash using a very diluted solution of mild dishwashing detergent (1 tsp detergent per gallon, or 4 liters, water).
grapes, strawberries, green beans, and leafy vegetables, swirl the foods in a dilute solution of dish detergent and water at room temperature for 5 to 10 seconds, then rinse with slightly warm water.
For the
other fruits and vegetables, use a soft brush to scrub the food with the solution for about 5 to 10 seconds, then rinse again with slightly warm water.

Not all pesticides can be washed off fruits and vegetables. Although some pesticides are found on the surface of foods, other pesticides may be taken up through the roots and into the plant and cannot be removed.

Peel Fruits with Higher Residue Levels
Peeling fruits, especially peaches, pears and apples, will help remove residues. Be sure to keep the peelings out of the compost. Some pesticides permeate the skin of the fruit, so this method does not guarantee residual free produce in all cases.

Grow Your Own
Looking at the list of most contaminated fruits and vegetables, you can chose to grow some of these yourself. Even a
small backyard plot can be very productive for family use.
Bell peppers, for example, are easy to grow in most hot or temperate climates, especially when grown in a
garden cloche.
Green beans and grapes can be grown vertically on trellises which can also serve as a shade provider during the summer months.
can be grown in most climates, and columnar varieties can even be grown in pots on the deck or rooftop. See our page on
fruit trees.
can be grown in the backyard in warm to hot climate zones, but often require a method of covering to protect the tree from rain-borne disease.
Spinach and cucumbers are easy, if you have the ground space. You can plant one or two of these crops in your yard and encourage a neighbor to grow others - then share the harvests.


~ Although apples rank high in pesticide residue, apple juice ranks low. Apple juice is a good substitute for non-organic apples.

~ The residue levels in
canned peaches are drastically lower than for fresh peaches. The processing requires vigorous washing which removes most residues from the skin. Also, different varieties of peaches are grown for canning, which require less pesticide to grow.

Sprouts are easy to grow in the home, very inexpensive and highly nutritious. Sprouts may be the simplest source of organic produce for you and your family.

~ Some of the fruits and vegetables which rank low on the pesticide residue scale may have higher rates of pesticide residue if they come from certain countries. Ask the produce manager in your local supermarket for
country-of-origin information.

~ Cherries from the US are three times more contaminated than their imported counterparts, which are among the cleanest fruits and vegetables analyzed. Cherries contain a compound known as ellagic acid which counteracts carcinogens, so it's worthwhile to seek out a source of
imported cherries if you live in the US or Canada.

~ Are pesticide residues less of a problem in
canned and frozen fruits and vegetables? Probably, although most of the research has been done by the food industry. The washing and blanching to prepare fruits and vegetables for canning or freezing removes or destroys approximately 80-90% of pesticide residues, according to the U.S. based National Food Processors Association.


Although one should use caution when buying produce, it is most important to note that the benefits of eating fresh fruits and vegetables far outweigh the risks associated with pesticide residue.
Online Sources 
Where to find organic produce online:
Front Door Organics
Sustainable Produce Urban Delivery (SPUD)

Door to Door Organics
Planet Organics 
Excalibur Food Dehydrators All-American Pressure Canners Skoy Cloths Compost Keepers Convection Oven Electric Multicooker