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Apples top Dirty Dozen list

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Oh, brother. The Environmental Working Group, an outfit in Washington, D.C., released their annual Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce on Tuesday — and guess what? Apples rank top of the list.

EWG claims The Dirty Dozen of contaminated foods contain more pesticides than any other fruits and veggies on the market. They also say consumers can lower the volume of pesticides they eat by instead choosing produce from what they call The Clean Fifteen list.

But before you swap those crisp, sweet Fujis for, say, a sack of onions, know that local horticulture experts consider EWG's methodologies fairly bogus.

"Thousands of toxicologists — many of them academics with no industry ties — believe the Environmental Working Group's methods are off-base," said Tim Smith, Washington State University Extension agent for North Central Washington. "They have their own way for determining these results that differ dramatically from the standard testing methods."

The truth, said Smith, is that the fruit industry has made tremendous strides in the last few decades towards pesticide safety. "We're using products now that are far less dangerous to the environment and far less toxic to the consumer than ever before," he said.

According to EWG's 2011 report, top culprits on the Dirty Dozen list were apples, with 92 percent of those tested showing two or more pesticide residues. Apples were followed by celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, imported nectarines, imported grapes, sweet bell peppers, potatoes, domestic blueberries, lettuce and kale and collard greens.

The cleanest veggies and fruits were onions, sweet corn, pineapples, avocados and asparagus.

To EWG's credit, they encouraged people to eat fruits and veggies, particularly organic varieties. "The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure," the Shopper's Guide says.