We know that it’s healthy to eat more fruits and vegetables. But a lot of produce contains pesticides. That’s especially a concern for children because they’re still growing and they metabolize toxins differently.
Produce samples are tested every year by the Department of Agriculture for pesticide levels. The Consumer Reports Food Safety and Sustainability Center has analyzed the data and developed a Risk Guide for almost 50 fruits and vegetables.
Its analysis found that risk levels often vary depending on where the produce is grown. For example, cantaloupes grown in Honduras, Mexico, Guatemala, and Costa Rica had a lower risk level than cantaloupes grown in the U.S.
Organic produce fell into the low or very low risk category. So Consumer Reports says that buying organic is your best option. But organic produce costs an average of 49 percent more.
Consumer Reports ranked fruits and vegetables based on when it’s most important to buy organic. For fruits, there are five: peaches, tangerines, nectarines, strawberries, and cranberries. For vegetables, it’s green beans, bell and hot peppers, sweet potatoes, and carrots.
The good news is that Consumer Reports did find some nonorganic fruits and vegetables that were about as safe as organic versions when it comes to pesticide residues. They include broccoli grown in the U.S. and Mexico; U.S. cherries; grapes from the U.S., Chile, Mexico, and Peru; and lettuce from the U.S. and Mexico.
Whatever produce you buy, Consumer Reports says you should wash it thoroughly. Its recommendations are for fruits and vegetables that have been rinsed and have had inedible peels and rinds removed.