Food that’s safe to eat!

How to not be poisoned.

Some fruit and vegetables are sprayed a lot, others not so. Some absorb pesticides, others are more resilient. How the hell do we find out?

Click on Continue Reading below to find out. And thanks to Dorka for finding this list.

Fruits (Buy these ones organic)

Apples – Multiple pesticides are found on apples- a favourite food of many children

Apricots, nectarines, peaches – Most stone fruits are highly likely to contain pesticide residues

Cherries – During their growth cycle, cherries are sprayed 8 to 10 times with various pesticides and other chemicals, and are likely to contain pesticide residue

Grapes (Imported) – Buy only organic or avoid imported grapes entirely, especially for children. Imported grapes may be fumigated with highly toxic methylbromide.

Lemons, limes, oranges – Most pesticide residue is concentrated in the peel, so buy organic when using peel in baking or drinks

Pears – Highly likely to contain pesticide residues after harvest

Raspberries – Highly likely to contain pesticide and fungicide residue – buy local.

Strawberries – When the USDA’s pesticide data program releases its annual list of produce samples with residues that exceed tolerable levels, strawberries appear more often than any other.


Fruits (OK to buy these ones non-organic)

Blueberries – Have low pesticide residues– buy local.

Cantaloupe (Domestic) – It’s OK to eat domestically grown non-organic melons in season. However, cantaloupes imported from Mexico frequently test positive for pesticide residues and should be avoided

Bananas – Low pesticide residues and a thick skin made non-organic an acceptable choice. Fair-trade or organic bananas are often the same price as non-organic.

Grapes (Domestic) – Grapes grown in the U.S. typically test low for pesticide residue. Non-organic grapes are fine but for small children organic is the best choice

Grapefruit, Tangerines – Among citrus fruits, both rank low in pesticide residue. Most pesticide residue is concentrated in the peel. Buy organic if using the peel

Mangoes – This thick skinned tropical fruit typically has little or no pesticide residue

Watermelon – Pesticides do not work well for this crop and are used sparingly


Nuts, Seeds & Legumes (Buy organic)

Almonds – Many toxic pesticides and herbicides are used on almond trees. If you eat almonds daily, buy organic

Peanuts (and peanut butter) – Peanuts grown underground and are known to absorb toxins from the soil.

Pecans- If you can find organic pecans, they’re a good choice because pecan trees tend to be sprayed frequently, herbicides, and miticides

Soy Foods – Soy foods, soymilk and tofu are so processed that few pesticide residues remain; however, several very toxic pesticides are used to grow conventional soybeans.


Nuts, Seeds & Legumes (Ok to buy these ones non-organic)

Beans – Dried beans are usually washed, soaked, rinsed, and boiled, so insecticide residues are likely removed in the process.

Cashews – Are grown almost exclusively in tropical locations where pesticides are rarely used.

Macadamia Nuts – Few pesticides are used, if any.

Sesame Seeds – Organic is better, but pesticide residues are minor in non-organic sesame seeds and oils


Vegetables (Buy Organic)

Beets – Thin skinned veggies that grow underground can absorb pesticides and heavy metals. Organic is best.

Bell Peppers (all colors) – Conventionally grown peppers are highly likely to contain multiple pesticide residues

Carrots – Carrots are so good at absorbing heavy metals from soil, they are sometimes grown as a throw away crop to rid a field of lead or arsenic contamination. Always buy organic.

Celery – Is the vegetable most likely to contain pesticide residues. 82% of samples have tested positive

Collard & Salad greens, Swiss chard – Leafy greens that grow close to the ground tend to have high pesticide residue levels

Cucumbers – Highly toxic organophosophate pesticides are used on conventionally grown cucumbers

Green Beans – Sprayed multiple times with pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides

Potatoes – Especially russets, are highly likely to contain multiple pesticide residues

Spinach – Is often grown in less-than-ideal conditions, so conventional farmers use significant amounts of pesticides, fungicides and herbicides. More than 60% of the non-organic spinach tested by the FDA contains pesticide residue, including DDT and permethrin

Winter Squash -Mild pesticides are used on hard winter squashes. Conventionally grown winter squash is coated with an oily wax, making the skin inedible. Organic is a better choice but non-organic is acceptable if you don’t eat the skin.


Vegetables (Ok to buy non-organic)

Asparagus – Does not appeal to many pests and is rarely treated with pesticides

Avocados – Low pesticide residues and a thick skin make non-organic avocados an acceptable choice

Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower, Cabbage – Pesticides don’t work well on these veggies so few are used.

Corn, sweet – Although it may be sprayed with herbicides and some pesticides, sweet corn almost never contains pesticide residue (buy local).

Eggplant (all varieties) – Because it is selectively sprayed with minimally toxic pesticides, eggplant rarely contains pesticide residue

Garlic – Has natural pest control and is rarely sprayed

Onions (all) – Have natural pest control and are not sprayed much. Green onions are sometimes sprayed with an herbicide. Organic is better, but non is acceptable

Rhubarb – Pesticides are almost never used on rhubarb, as the leaves are already highly toxic to many creatures including humans

Sweet Potatoes – Pesticides do not work well for this crop and are used sparingly

Tomatoes – Buy local tomatoes. Always. If you cannot find them, buy whatever tomato smells the closest to a home grown tomato

Zucchini – Does not tolerate many pesticides and herbicides, but the pesticides used on this crop include several known carcinogens


Dairy (Organic is best!)

Butter – Typically shows low pesticide levels, but pesticide residues are stored in fat and butter is nearly all fat

Cheese – is mostly fat, and pesticides and persistent organic pollutants tend to accumulate in animal fat. Organic cheese is best, but hard to find. For children, buy only organic. Local cheese may be a good option. BUY LOCAL

Eggs – Local pastured eggs are wonderful if you have access to a farm. If not, organic eggs are the next best choice, followed by cage-free eggs. BUY LOCAL

Milk, Yogurt – Organic milk and milk products contain no hormones or antibiotics. Organic milk is highly recommended.

Source: Vegetarian Times Magazine & To Buy or Not to buy by Cindy Burke

42 comments ↓

#1 Liney on 12.13.11 at 12:00 am

This was very helpful information. Like most people, I am careful of my food budget, but I also want to feed my family safe foods. I grow organic vegetables in the summer and freeze a lot. But fruits and some vegetables I need to buy. And it can be very confusing. I’ve run out of summer squash and I make a Mexican, Southwest dish that I make in a large batch to be used in soups and soft tortillas. It is expensive now and I was wondering if I could safely buy non-organic zucchini. I think I’ll bite the bullet and stick to organic after reading what could be lingering in it. Thank you so much.

#2 Yvonne on 02.28.12 at 7:17 am

Thank you for this information. I still can’t get past the question that keeps repeating in my mind: WHY is it OK to put poisons on food and sell it to us? And, organic is great, if you have access to it and IF you can afford it. It just makes me furious.

Thanks again for the excellent breakdown.

#3 Julie on 03.26.12 at 1:11 am

Thank you so much, for this information. I cannot afford organic food so i will stick to the ones that does not absorbed much pesticides. But i will try and buy organic milk. Thanks a million.

#4 Nancy on 04.28.12 at 1:15 pm

Great, comprehensive information all in one place.
Thank you so much fit this!

#5 Garth on 05.01.12 at 11:32 am

Hmmm, I’m not convinced how useful this list is. For a start it appears to be US-focussed. In Australia we have different climates and hence different pest problems, as well as different allowable pesticides. Pesticide use will really vary from state to state. Also, it raises concerns about heavy metals in the soil – growing organic is not going to avoid this. Finally, organic allows (though discourages) the use of copper-based sprays, which is quite toxic and a real environmental problem.

#6 Bill Z on 05.14.12 at 9:56 am

Excellent! But remember the other side to the quotient! Conventionally grown food OFTEN if not always is grown with industrial fertilizers that represent only three of 57 minerals found in organically cultivated soil. The soil is dead dead dead and all (or most of) factory farming had millions of acres of dead soil where plants are grown on a cocktail of three to nine inorganic commercial fertilizer. Problems with inorganic fertilizer is Trace Mineral depletion overfertilization High energy consumption and long term sustainability. Buying exclusively organic supports organic farmers the organic movement and all things wholesome and good however about half the worlds population is fed by the results obtained by inorganic fertilizers. The road to a one hundred percent organic world is a long way off, but kicking Monsanto Bayer and the other big chemical companies out of the business will help greatly. You vote with your dollars. Stick to organic, vote organic and support your local farmers.

#7 Charlene regan on 06.09.12 at 10:20 pm

This was extremely helpful, thank you!!

#8 Organic Cherries | Karen's Healthy Eats on 06.11.12 at 9:48 am

[...] fruits and vegetables, they have been in the past. I read that farmers spray conventional cherries 8-10 times throughout the growing season! And because cherries have thin skins, they lack a protective [...]

#9 Jamie on 06.12.12 at 9:21 am

nice information. I always wonder about nuts, which is difficult to figure how and when the pesticides or other harmful substances get in to them.

#10 chris-195 on 06.12.12 at 9:41 am

Not sure about pesticide use with nuts, but one thing that is evident is that over-consumption of peanuts very often causes headaches. Have come across this again and again.

This is not caused by pesticides but as a result of a natural fungus that exists inside the peanut. Not particularly harmful but if you consume a packet of peanuts in a day you will very likely end up with an annoying headache the next day adn will be wondering what caused it.

#11 josh on 06.22.12 at 6:12 pm

Unpoisoned fruit is too expensive. Better to grow my own.

#12 Scott on 07.07.12 at 12:11 pm

Thanks- we were looking for a strategy to go by when out of the organic / Whole Foods areas.

#13 Greg on 07.14.12 at 12:04 am

Given that more and more sweet corn is being genetically modified to work with Monsanto Roundup and other manufacturer’s equally bad pesticides, it’s probably a very good idea to buy organic corn.

#14 Laxmi on 07.24.12 at 8:04 am

Yah! Help for the confused! A great service for us all.

#15 Jerry on 09.28.12 at 10:54 pm

I agree with Greg. Almost 90% of corn in the US is GM and has the DNA of another plant that allows corn to produce it’s own pesticide, so when you consume the GMO Corn, you are indeed consuming pesticides. Organic is the only way to go with corn.

#16 Jerry on 09.28.12 at 11:02 pm

I’ve also read that Blueberries are bad to eat if not organic. IDK what to do. Here is what another website claims the USDA says. Tests show domestic blueberries (13 pesticides detected on a single blueberry!) have a higher pesticide load than imported.
But both are high.

#17 Jerry on 09.28.12 at 11:03 pm

Regarding Grapes: Imported Grapes Sprayed heavily, often with chemicals banned in the US.
All grapes (Imp and Dom) tested over 6 years averaged 75% with residues. Chilean grapes averaged 92% detection rates as compared with 65% for domestic grapes.

#18 Jerry on 09.28.12 at 11:14 pm

This website confirms a lot of what is said above, but contradicts somethings. Toward the bottom of the webpage it gives some of the USDA test done in 2005 or 2006. Just FYI. It’s prob always safest to by Organic. http://inspirationgreen.com/food-organic-choices

#19 Canned Legumes | liveblissful on 10.16.12 at 1:52 pm

[...] For more info on why BPA is so bad, check out my other post. Also for info on what to buy organic or non-organic check out this site. [...]

#20 James on 11.12.12 at 11:13 pm

This is a great reference page for an important topic. I can confirm the need for organic carrots as well. Had an old farmer tell me once about the growing carrots to absorb the toxins in the ground. He said he wouldn’t even feed them to his animals but who knows if others wouldn’t sell them.

#21 chris-195 on 11.13.12 at 7:24 am

Hi James,

Correct, and you are probably aware that this particular property of carrots has been used successfully to restore contaminated soils, especially after prolonged spraying of lead arsenate on apple orchards. Such contaminated ground can pose a health risk for decades to come, however by strategically growing crops of carrots (and then disposing of the carrots) it has been possible to clean up contaminated soils. or the health conscious this points graphically to the ability of carrots to absorb particular pollutants and thus to the need to choose organic carrots wherever possible.

#22 Oriya on 01.15.13 at 2:16 pm

We are going to destroy the earth, aren’t we? It’s bleak. How it we get here?

This is a good list but why is organic still so expensive. Everything should be organic!

#23 Charla on 01.24.13 at 9:40 am

It’s not just the pesticides that we need to worry about. Almost all corn and soy are genetically modified (GMO) and one of the two is in almost all processed foods. Corn is modified to manufacture its own pesticide internally from a bacteria that used to be used by organic growers who sprayed it ON the plant where it rapidly deteriorated. There is some evidence that this Bt is causing human intestinal flora to mutate. Also, many zucchini and yellow squash as well as HAWAIIAN papayas are genetically modified. If sugar doesn’t say “cane’ sugar, it is almost always from genetically modified beets. Unless dairy products say ‘no rBgh’ they are made with milk from cows given a genetically modified hormone that forces them to their limits to produce milk, especially in cold weather and causes mastitis which in turn makes pus in the milk. Beef, pork, chicken. lamb and other domestic farm animals are fed genetically modified corn and soy, both of which are engineered to withstand increasingly more and more of the herbicide glyphosate [Roundup(R)]. Many farm animals stomachs and intestines are shown in autopsies to be bleeding. Do these foods cause the same in humans? Not yet known for sure. Farm animals are recovering when diet is changed from GMO to conventionally grown.

#24 Ann Rottman on 02.22.13 at 6:29 am

This is one of the best compiled lists of what to buy organic and what is safe to buy non-organic. I shop at Eartfare. Do yu have any nformation on their fresh produce? It is supposed to be organic. Again TY, Ann
PS: I don’t have a website and didn’t know if you wanted this website……have a great day

#25 jeanne on 03.23.13 at 3:37 pm

just curious- when pesticides are found on fruit and vegetables i thought i could scrub/soak them and they would be ok. do they all absorb the pesticides?

#26 mc daniel on 06.13.13 at 5:08 pm

I’ve had anafalactic shock 2 wks ago from what we think was pesticides on some salad purchased from the 99cent store in peoris az. Very scary…am trying to eat exclusivesly organic now but its tuff.
Will try to grow what we need nxt year.

#27 ron on 07.05.13 at 2:54 am

I see that the foods listed have residue. I would like to know what the residue specifically is and how much is measured in each food. Unless you are deathly alergic to some chemical/food, I believe trace residues will have no effects when eaten.

#28 Jill on 07.05.13 at 3:40 am

The ‘okay to eat non-org’ foods listed here are totally wrong! ALL our food should be grown and raised truly organically, using no pesticides, herbicides, or artificial fertilizers. Most livestock (cows, horses, bison, goats, sheep, etc.) should never be feed any soy or corn products, even if they are organic. Those are NOT part of their natural diet and thus seriously hurts them to eat that crap. People, soybeans are not even native to North America. Livestock stomachs cannot breakdown corn or soy. Those give them gas and thus they bloat, making them extremely uncomfortable, thus they are given meds to combat the side effects. Anything sprayed on those crops transfer into their muscle (the meat) and milk. They are free ranging animals, meaning grasses are their natural diet. Many foods grown organically also have pesticides used on them, as the USDA allows some pesticide use. Also, when something is listed as ‘Naturally Grown’, that means absolutely nothing. Yes, organic foods are more expensive because the output quantity is usually lower. People also are far less likely to buy foods that don’t look perfect. We’ve gotten used to the perfect looking, no taste or smell tomato, strawberry, blueberry, etc.. I’d rather have some non-perfect looking foods that fully organic, than anything else. We Americans, and much of the rest of the world, eat far too much and throw away about 25% of the food we buy. Instead of doing this, we should buy less, and buy more often, to make sure our foods are fresh and healthier. Not all locally grown foods are organic either, so beware. I’ve seen plenty of GMO and conventionally grown foods at farmers markets too. Buy local organics when you can, but when you can’t, stick to all organic anyway. It’s better for us, the animals and the planet. No one wants to live in a sterile world.

#29 Jill on 07.05.13 at 3:56 am

All thin skinned foods will absorb pesticides and herbicides. Toxins in the soil are readily taken up by most plants, and animals eating those plants, including some heavy metals. Much of those toxins are leftover from transitional farms moving to organic, and of course conventional farms, that use chemicals to increase productivity and cut down on pests. I get violently ill when eating conventionally grown bananas and anything made with those bananas. However, when I was pregnant with my first born, I craved them, for some odd reason, and was told to try organic ones. I did, and low and behold, I didn’t get sick and I developed a taste for them. 28 years later, I still get violently ill from anything that has non-organically grown bananas in it. I have to read labels to make sure.

#30 Jill on 07.05.13 at 4:03 am

mc daniel, why would you buy food at a 99¢ store? You probably don’t realize (tho maybe you do now) that the foods sold there are the worst of the worst… past expiration, full of artificial chemicals, and other nasty things including BPA in canned foods, etc.. Just don’t do it! Anaphylactic shock is no laughing matter, and neither is poisoning yourself and others. You could have died. So glad you didn’t and you’ve learned a lesson the hard way.

#31 Korean on 07.06.13 at 12:51 am

Very very informative. I really appreciate it.

#32 Day 5. To buy or not to buy (organic), that is the question | onehundredpercentraw on 07.18.13 at 9:29 am

[...] If, like me, you can’t buy exclusively organic, there are some known offenders in terms of pesticide residues, these I aim to buy organic.  Check out this list for foods to buy organic and those that you can get away with buying non-organically grown: http://waterworksvalley.com/food-thats-safe-to-eat/ [...]

#33 tammy on 09.21.13 at 2:24 am

Good info – and for those that say they can’t afford organic. Look at what junk you buy and cut back on those. When you add up the difference between organic and non-over a weeks time, it is usually less than a total of $5. As a 11 yr old said on a TED lecture – you pay a little now or a lot later to the doctors/hospitals.

#34 Living in a Cornucopia: Small Scale Urban Gardening | The Literary Duck on 10.11.13 at 12:06 am

[...] We began our quest with potatoes. The USDA says that there are more than 35 pesticides used on commercial potatoes, all of which leave behind detectable residues that we ingest. At least seven of these are known or probable carcinogens. So that’s one of the foods that I only buy organic, and organic potatoes are expensive: hence the decision to dedicate a big section of our garden to organically grown potatoes. (Want to know what foods you should buy organic and which ones are okay not to? Here’s a great list!) [...]

#35 Jeanette on 10.22.13 at 5:22 am

Just found out I am very high in lead. I am trying to determine the source. This is helpful.

Is local, Amish grown Romaine lettuce and other veggies ok to eat?

#36 chris-195 on 10.22.13 at 3:31 pm

Hi Jem,

If you are high in lead do check your garden soil. There are many inner city places that have high lead in garden soil, usually caused by old fashioned lead-based paint being scraped off buildings when painting was done. Ironically the worst thing to do in those locations is to allow chickens to graze because lead concentrates in the yolks of the eggs. Backyard chooks can cause elevated blood lead levels. You can get soil testing kits here in Australia in larger hardware stores, but you may live elsewhere. My young grandchild had the same problem and the health people said to move out of the house because it was too unsafe to live in, and that caused some disruption but she now lives in a safe area.

Chris

#37 Vicarious LI on 11.07.13 at 4:25 pm

Dear Jeanette,

I don’t know the source of your high levels of lead, but also consider the following. It is possible that your water may be contaminated because residue from pipes, surrounding soil contamination or air pollution.

In a similar vain, the Amish produce may be contaminated (not by them) but by industrial or neighbor’s runoff/air pollution.

In addition, I believe makeup sometimes contain either lead or mercury to help preserve it. I believe mercury may be found in some lotions and mascara. I believe some red lipsticks may have the lead.

Even if lead is regulated in your country, the regulation may be based on how much is allowed in a certain size sample. For example, hydrogenated oils are sometimes added to peanut butter, but the label will say 0 when it comes to trans fats. In the US, this is acceptable to print because a serving size (usually 2 TBL) has a negligible amount (to them.)

I don’t care if it is only .5-1.5 gms of trans fat, I find that labeling misleading. In addition, most people will eat more than 2 TBL in their life. Hence, they may be consuming all this PB not knowing there’s trans fats.

From my understanding, lead contamination is accumulative like trans fat servings can add up. Hence, you may find amounts in your surroundings, food, etc that don’t seem like a big deal by themselves, but collectively are giving you a huge result.

#38 Vicarious LI on 11.07.13 at 4:50 pm

I love parsnips and haven’t had them in years. I’m thinking of getting a pound if I can find them. If I can’t find organic parsnips, do you think I’ll be okay eating a pounds worth of chemical cocktail coated ‘snips?

#39 An experiment to grow asparagus | City garden on 05.12.14 at 12:36 am

[...] benefits are not surpassed by the pollutants of non-organic production. However, according to this website it is OK to eat non-organic asparagus. Nonetheless, if you truly want to minimize the possible [...]

#40 kenneth burdette on 07.10.14 at 12:54 am

Can I pick green beans after spraying .It says 7 days but it has rained

#41 The Raw Beet | Girasole Creation on 09.12.14 at 3:34 am

[...] To start, you don’t need a peeler to clean these roots, just a sponge and some running water. Give them a bit of a scrub and you will remove the dirt and any unwanted growth or hairy pieces you may see. Since beet skin is thin, be sure to purchase organic. For a quick reference to produce you probably want to invest in organic, check out Waterworks Valley article: Food that’s safe to eat! [...]

#42 Non-organic Foods Ok To Eat « Recipes for Health on 09.14.14 at 12:38 pm

[...] Food that’s safe to eat! — Waterworks Valley – … but I also want to feed my family safe foods. I grow organic vegetables in the summer and freeze a lot. But fruits and some vegetables I need to buy … according to this website it is OK to eat non-organic asparagus. Nonetheless, if you truly want to minimize the possible [...] #40 kenneth … [...]

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