Monday, November 12, 2012

The Pesticide Problem

Last week, I posted about the newly published "Clean" and "Dirty" Lists for Israeli produce.

These lists  are meant to help shoppers make choices about which produce items are safer to buy and which are not (among conventionally grown produce), similar to the list for the USA that is put out by the EWG.
I have been bombarded with questions since I posted the list, so I decided to do some research and try explain more.

I cannot, however, take any responsibility for what you do. I am merely sharing my personal thoughts regarding the produce lists, and my opinions are not meant to be understood as scientifically accurate, nor is this meant as medical advice. (Or advice at all. Just my thoughts.)

Regarding pesticide levels - Once upon a time, I tried to feed my family a mostly organic diet, as I am wary of chemical exposure, especially for young children. I was able to do this with careful planning, in the U.S.A. I have not been able to do the same here in Israel, as the cost of organic produce is so much higher compared to conventional produce here, and salaries are not equivalent.

I believe that G-d created our bodies with the ability to get rid of many toxins, (and we develop this ability as we grow) and the presence of a toxin in someone's urine is evidence that our bodies are able to remove it, at least partially, so when there are reports of such-and-such a compound being found at detectable levels in urine, yes, that means we are ingesting it. But it means we are also removing it from our bodies. I DO believe, however, that for very young children, reducing their chemical load is important. If I had a baby or a toddler I would probably be buying specific foods organically just for the baby, even while feeding the rest of the family the conventionally grown equivalent.

I also believe that eating fruits and vegetables of any kind is important. Eating a junk food diet in order to "avoid" pesticide exposure will not solve any problems. Eating conventional fruits and vegetables is STILL healthier, despite pesticides, than not eating fruits and vegetables.

That being said, I still would love to take some precautions to reduce our exposure.

I know it's not perfect, but I scrub all of our produce before cooking or eating it. I use a commercial fruit and vegetable cleaner, because that is my preference. Pesticides are made to stay on a fruit/vegetable (they adhere to it in order to work even after rain or crop irrigation), and are usually not water soluble, so in order to remove them, some scrubbing, and a cleaner (soap of some sort) are most effective. But I only wash produce in cold water.

Some people recommend peeling fruits and vegetables. I am torn on this one, as we know that often vitamins and minerals are stored in the peel of a fruit or vegetable. I usually opt not to peel, knowing that I've scrubbed the peel, and that there are plenty of benefits to consuming the peel...

On the other hand, I want to send a message to the growers and chemical companies that we don't want toxic overload in our food.

I plan to scrutinize the list carefully and pick a few items I can reasonably cut back on and find suitable replacements for.

Here are my first thoughts about the some of the produce specified on the list:

At the moment, even when grapes are in season, we rarely buy them, as they tend to be pricey. Same goes for celery, I rarely buy it, except the ones that are certified lower in pesticides (the non-organic, certified lower in pesticide ones are sold at Shufersal and Yesh).

Apples, sadly, are a staple in my house. In the U.S. I only bought organic ones; here the price for organic apples is usually 8X higher than conventional. In the U.S., the difference was not as pronounced... But I am going to try to find a cleaner alternative to our daily apples. Or perhaps make more baked apples, as I have read that a large # of pesticides break down when cooked...

As far as the rest of the items on the list, I am considering cutting back our potato and pepper consumption as well. We won't be cutting them out completely, but I do think it's important to consume less of them, even if for no other reason than to send the growers a message. Potatoes are easy, we can substitute other carbs like rice... peppers, well, those are harder to replace. But we may try growing our own! If we can't, we'll still buy them, but in moderation... (And, come to think of it, we only eat cooked potatoes, so hopefully some of those pesticides are gone by the time we eat them!)

And those are my first thoughts on the matter. How you choose to feed your family is, of course, a very personal decision. (But I'd love to hear your thoughts , too!)

Here are some other sources for fruit and vegetable cleaners:

Produce Wash from

Produce Wash from

Produce Wash from


  1. thank you for translating the list and your thoughts on it.

  2. Thanks for this - I agree that we must send a message but we also have to eat without going bankrupt. I peel cucumbers but not potatoes as, as you say, they are cooked. I used to peel apples but I don't anymore and obviously I don't peel tomatoes for salad. I also don't peel courgette or aubergine or grapes. All our other fruit and veg is either peeled by necessity (melons, onions, avocado) or frozen. I wander what the situation is with frozen veg?

    1. I imagine frozen vegetables have the same issues as fresh. You can see the entire list of produce that was tested and how they ranked by starting on page 8 of this document:

  3. I was very surprised that batata was on the good list and potatoes are on the bad list. I thought they would both be the same, since they grow similarly (I thought)...

  4. OY, you've settled for poisoning yourself some of the time, just not all of the time. That can lead to consequences you'd rather avoid.

    Think creatively about organizing community groups to demand organic produce in local grocery stores (increased purchases and purchasers can lead to lower prices). Grow your own sprouts and herbs or full gardens of whatever's possible. Check out organic food co-ops and shops, seek out bargains and stock up at times.

    Synthetic preservatives, additives etc are resulting in infertile young adults, babies born with cancer or other health problems and a medical world troubled by increased cases of once-rare medical problems. The conservative NIH now has a complementary/alternative healing initiative as evidence mounts about the harm of the adulterated food and hygiene products status quo (scroll around my blog to learn how synthetically loaded soaps, shampoos and other hygiene products can undermine your health).

    Keep your mind open to reaching a goal of all-organic all the time, and watch how many innovations present themselves to you.

    I wish you and your readers the best of health-promoting success.

    Yocheved Golani
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