Over the last few years, there has been a lot of discussion around pesticides used in farming. And yes, it’s very concerning, even if there are rules that regulate the use of one pesticide at a time it does not consider the combination of these pesticides that may be consumed on an ongoing basis.
The ‘cocktail effect’ is a concern as little has been done to understand the health impacts that can occur due to continued exposure to multiple pesticide residues found on a range of foods that people consume every day. Every year UK Government tests a range of produce for pesticide residues.
Using data over a five-year period, The Pesticides Action Network UK creates lists of the ‘dirtiest’ and ‘cleanest’ fruit and vegetables, based on how many of the samples tested revealed residues of more than one pesticide.
These lists are split into the Dirty Dozen which lists the worst affected vegetables and the Clean 15 which indicates fruits and vegetables that contain only trace amounts of pesticides.
To save you cash in the long run, you don’t really need to buy the Clean 15 list of vegetables organic. Just note that even though the UK (through EU legislation) has a restricted approach, some of these items may still be grown with GMO seeds, especially sweetcorn, so you’d need to buy organic if that’s something you’d like to avoid.
1. Beetroot, 0% with multiple pesticides found
This beautiful root vegetable is rich in Folate (Vitamin B9), Potassium, Manganese, Magnesium, Iron and other Vitamins. It can be great crisped, used in salads or pickled as a side dish.
2. Sweetcorn, 0% with multiple pesticides found
A favourite amongst children, sweetcorn is rich in Thiamine (Vitamin B1), Folate (Vitamin B9), Magnesium, Potassium and Vitamin C.
3. Mushrooms, 0% with multiple pesticides found
Mushrooms are a bit of a controversial subject with many disliking the texture of the fungi but it’s great for winter as it’s rich in Vitamin D, Selenium Phospurus and Folate.
4. Rhubarb, 0% with multiple pesticides found
There is nothing like a Rhubarb crumble during the summer months, but it can also be used to add acidity to a dish. Rhubarb is rich in Vitamin K1, Vitamin C and contains Calcium.
5. Swede, 0% with multiple pesticides found
As a root vegetable, swede is a bit of an acquired taste but it’s surprisingly high in Vitamin C as 386 grams contain 107% of the recommended daily allowance. It also contains good amounts of Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium and Vitamin E.
6. Figs, 0% with multiple pesticides found
Figs are rich in minerals including potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron and copper and contain antioxidants Vitamin A and K.
7. Turnip, 0% with multiple pesticides found
Turnips are rich in Vitamin C, but the leaves contain even higher concentrations of Vitamin K, C and A.
8. Onions, only 1% with multiple pesticides found
Onions are very versatile and can be used in almost any dish, it also contains a good amount of Vitamin C, B6, B9 and potassium.
9. Avocado, only 2% with multiple pesticides found
In recent years, avocado has gained popularity but is also a controversial fruit as it’s often grown by mafia-like cartels in impoverished countries. However, it’s still delicious and rich in antioxidants, vitamins and healthy fats.
10. Cauliflower, only 3% with multiple pesticides found
Who doesn’t like cauliflower with their Sunday roast or even better, cauliflower cheese as a mid-week treat. That’s a good thing as it’s very rich in Vitamin C, K and B6.
11. Radishes, only 4% with multiple pesticides found
This peppery root vegetable is a good source of Vitamin C and contains a small number of minerals, given that it’s also very low in calories it will definitely not mess up your diet.
12. Sweet potatoes, only 6% with multiple pesticides found
The popularity of sweet potato has surged in recent years, as it turns out, it makes a pretty good chip. Just 200g baked with the skin on provides 769% of your recommended daily allowance of Vitamin A. It also contains Vitamin C, Manganese and a hoard of other vitamins and minerals which really does make this a superfood.
13. Broad beans, only 8% with multiple pesticides found
Part of the bean family, broad beans contain a lot of plant protein and a range of other vitamins and minerals. It also aids digestion and helps to lower cholesterol levels.
14. Pumpkin and squash, only 8% with multiple pesticides found
Punkins are great for carving during Holloween season, but it also contains a good amount of Vitamin K, C, E and is high in beta-carotene a powerful antioxidant.
15 Leeks, only 8% with multiple pesticides found
These upright veggies are rich in Vitamin C, A, K and B6. It also contains flavonoids and polyphenols which can protect against oxidative stress, cancers and cardiovascular disease
It can be more expensive to switch to an organic diet, so we hope the list above will help you make more informed decisions around the fruit and vegetables you buy.
Note that even though the list does not take further contamination caused by pesticides into account it does consider the direct risk to you as a consumer as many new pesticides are ‘systemic’ which means that the residues are found within the entire piece of fruit or vegetable rather than just the surface. As a result, washing and peeling produce before you eat it will not remove the pesticide residues.