I wonder why during National Nutrition Month, when we dietitians are encouraging everyone to increase nutritious foods such as vegetables and fruits, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases a report intended to scare people away from these foods.
I am talking about the “dirty dozen.” This list, developed from findings of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, ranks the produce with the highest amount of measurable pesticides.
But what does it really mean? A chronic reference dose (RfD) is an estimate of the amount of a chemical a person could be exposed to on a daily basis, throughout a lifetime, which is unlikely to cause appreciable risk or harm. We are exposed daily to potential harmful chemicals.
A 2011 analysis in the Journal of Toxicology showed that the RfDs were more than 1,000 times higher than the exposure estimates in the majority of the “dirty dozen.” One conclusion in this article was that risk from pesticides on these foods is negligible.
If you go to this calculator, you’ll find that an average woman would need to consume 454 servings of strawberries a day to be at a slight risk of negative health outcomes.
We want to do everything we can to eat food that is contaminant free but 100 percent clear is not possible. If organic foods are in your budget, then that could be one way to minimize exposure even though pesticides are used on organic produce.
All scientists, and even the folks at EWG, would agree that not eating vegetables and fruits poses the greatest risk to health. For anyone who worries about exposure to pesticides or chemicals, I suggest incorporating more foods that support the liver, which removes toxins from your blood. These include dark green vegetables, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts, beets and garlic.
For a deeper dive on produce safety, browse through https://www.safefruitsandveggies.com/residue-research