Are the “Dirty Dozen” really that dirty?

Are the “Dirty Dozen” really that dirty?

Strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples — it sounds like the makings of a healthful lunch. But to the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization that focuses on protecting human health and the environment, these are the top four in this year’s “Dirty Dozen.’’

The annual list highlights produce found to have the highest levels of chemical residue, according to the group’s analysis of U.S. Department of Agriculture data. But some experts are calling foul, saying the list is alarmist and may do more harm than good.

A recent Huffington Post article aims to put the term “dirty” in context. It cites a 2011 Journal of Toxicity article that found all of that year’s “Dirty Dozen’’ produce had levels of pesticide residue that were well within acceptable limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Do such small amounts, then, truly warrant the label “dirty”? Since people don’t know the numbers behind the list, does the list overstate the problem?

Critics also note that many consumers cannot afford to buy organic produce. Will these people be so alarmed by the potential of ingesting chemicals that they simply avoid eating fresh strawberries and spinach altogether?

With obesity and heart disease at devastating levels in America, scaring people away from fresh produce may be the bigger danger. Fresh produce provides valuable nutrients for fighting such evils as inflammation, cancer, heart disease, cognitive decline and many others.

By using some common sense, such as carefully choosing and washing fresh fruits and veggies, consumers can protect themselves from possible problems while still enjoying the health benefits that come from a balanced diet.

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