Shopping for organic food? Here's what you need to know

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PHOENIX -- Pesticides are used on produce to prevent or destroy pests and protect from bacteria, insects or anything designed to harm the plant. Although there is government regulation on pesticides, by consistently ingesting these toxins we run the risk of developing illness and potential diseases.

It’s important to try and reduce your pesticide exposure and reap the benefits of the fruits and vegetables. If possible, shop organically for the following items listed on the Dirty Dozen™. According to the Environmental Working Group, the “health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure.”

Regardless of your choice to shop organically or conventionally, remember to thoroughly wash your produce to remove any residue or lingering farm-friendly stowaways.

Here are the Dirty Dozen™ and the Clean 15™ with the highest and lowest pesticide residue.

Dirty Dozen™
1. Apples
2. Celery
3. Sweet bell peppers
4. Peaches
5. Strawberries
6. Nectarines – imported
7. Grapes
8. Spinach
9. Lettuce
10. Cucumbers
11. Blueberries – domestic
12. Potatoes
EWG also added to the list
*Green beans

Clean 15™
1. Onions
2. Sweet corn
3. Pineapples
4. Avocado
5. Cabbage
6. Sweet peas
7. Asparagus
8. Mangoes
9. Eggplant 10. Kiwi
11. Cantaloupe – domestic
12. Sweet potatoes
13. Grapefruit
14. Watermelon
15. Mushrooms

What does "organic" really mean?

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a fixed set of standards that must be met by food organizations in order to use the “organic” label in the United States. Also, “any product labeled as organic must identify each organically produced in the ingredient statement.”

Companies may use organic products and call the product organic or natural, but to truly be organic, the food needs to have 95 to 100 percent organic ingredients within. The best thing to do is to turn the box or package over and READ the labels to verify the contents.

For processed foods, if there is 70 percent organic ingredients, then the product may read “made with organic ingredients” and list up to three of the ingredients on the packaging. The other 30 percent of the non-organic ingredients must be approved on the National List. The manufacturer might use their own green label, but not use the USDA label.

For more information about "Green Gal" Tishin Donkersley, M.A., go to!/TishinD or Green Living,