In 2000, 3 percent of the country’s retail produce was organic, according to the Environmental Working Group. Ten years later, that number has jumped to 11 percent.
The national recession has done little to slow the growth, even though organic salad greens, apples and celery typically cost more than traditional versions.
While eating food free of pesticides has a significant appeal, buying exclusively organic fruits and vegetables remains difficult for families on a budget. However, it is possible to get maximum impact from just a few organic purchases. For example, the hormones typically administered to animals make organic milk, eggs and dairy products a worthwhile expenditure.
When you opt for organic produce, the grocery bill can add up fast. For 15 years, the Environmental Working Group has been examining USDA and FDA research to identify produce most contaminated by pesticides. Those fruits and vegetables, according to the organization, are worth the extra money to buy organic. Nearly 97 percent of peaches, for instance, tested positive for pesticides. So did 92 percent of apples — 79 percent of which had two kinds of pesticides or more.
Where to spend
According to the organization, avoiding its “dirty dozen” of most contaminated fruits and vegetables can cut your pesticide exposure by 80 percent. Here are some produce purchases worth splurging on organics:
■ Grapes (imported)
■ Sweet bell peppers
Where to skimp
Because of growing methods, exterior layers or other factors, some foods test very low for pesticides, meaning non-organic versions are a good buy. These fruits and vegetables are on EWG’s “consistently clean” list:
■ Sweet corn
■ Sweet peas