Nine Important Ways To Avoid Pesticide Residues In Food

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9 Ways To Avoid Pesticides In Food
Nine Important Ways To Avoid Pesticide Residues In Food. Graphic © Apple skull’n’bones pic © AdobeStock 22129230 (under license)

In Europe over the past few years, controversy has raged over the safety of Glyphosate – aka. Monsanto’s “Roundup” herbicide (also sold under many other trade names). A group of scientists – including some very eminent scholars – have claimed that the pesticide industry and even European Union regulators have known since the 1980s-1990s that Roundup caused birth defects and did not inform the public.

The scientists are of the opinion that the public may be being kept in the dark and that critical safety reviews have been deliberately obstructed in the interests of corporate profits. Here is their full downloadable report – it’s serious stuff as you can read for yourself: Roundup and birth defects: Is the public being kept in the dark?

There is more: A highly controversial 2013 scientific review (here is the full text) has claimed that Glyphosate “may in fact be the most biologically disruptive chemical in our environment”.

This complex paper has spawned endless argument on Wikipedia, where certain powerful moderators have “decided” that the paper must me struck down at all costs (for various reasons, none of which, curiously, are in any way related to the actual content of the paper.)


Yet more: The neonicotinoid pesticides thought by many to be responsible for the massive die-off of bees (if the bees go, we are in so much trouble) have now been banned in Europe – but (astonishingly) continue to be sold in many other countries including the USA, where brand new approvals of the pesticides are still being made.

You need to be aware of the facts.You are eating pesticide residues: A 2012 scientific review found that 38% of conventional (i.e. non-organic) produce was contaminated with pesticide residues!

Here at, we are of the opinion that blanketing the landscape in chemicals designed to obliterate all plants except the genetically modified ones, is a poor way to get rich at best and ecological insanity at worst. Nature has been entrusted to our care, not our exploitation. A very big difference – and one that those whose sole motive is profit would do well to consider.

It’s also worth considering that whatever goes into the environment very often ends up in the food chain. We (or future generations!) end up eating, breathing or drinking it, sooner or later. The old proverb “What you do to the world, you do to yourself” is not just a pretty tale, it’s fact that we are gradually coming to learn – the hard way.

Is anyone reading this page old enough to remember Rachel Carson’s world-changing book The Silent Spring? The original crusade against insecticides, this famous (and controversial) 1962 book documented the shocking story of how in the mid 20th century, now-banned insecticide DDT entered the food chain and ended up poisoning large numbers of birds.

Not only this – but it has been demonstrated time and time again that repeated spraying of chemicals leads to the rise of new chemical-resistant strains of both weeds and insects. “It is now known that agricultural spraying of pesticides produces resistance to the pesticide in seven to ten years.” [1]

Our point is this: It was demonstrated with the DDT fiasco that the full extent of toxicity and damage to living systems caused by chemical pesticides was not (in the case of DDT) fully known until way after “the horse had bolted”. So – why take the chance? Why be a guinea pig playing roulette with your health with something that may be banned in a few years?

Here, then, is our full list of ways to keep your exposure to pesticides / herbicides to a minimum.

Nine Ways To Avoid Pesticide Residues In Food

HERE’S WHAT YOU CAN DO to lower your chances of intake of harmful chemical pesticides:

1. Eat Organic!

Organic vegetables are not permitted to be sprayed with chemical pesticides, so they are far less likely to have chemical pesticide in or on them. You “automagically” bypass these potential chemical pesticide health risks when you buy properly certified / correctly grown organic produce! Note – check the country of origin on “organic” goods – as recent alarming reports have raised an alarm over the authenticity of organic imports from China.

2. Wash Your Produce (Whether Organic Or Not)

It won’t get rid of all of it as some is absorbed by the plants, but it helps. Use warm water and wash your produce in a similar manner to the manner in which you wash your hands. Light scrubbing – perhaps with a special produce brush (they’re very cheap) is a good idea. Some use a very small amount of mild dish soap, but I am uncertain about the safety of this. Note that there are special “produce washes” which can be purchased in grocery stores. You can also make your own basic produce wash by using a cup of water with a teaspoon of sea salt added.

3. Peel Non-Organic Produce

Due to spraying, it stands to reason that pesticide residues are likely to end up closest to the surface of the produce, so by peeling it you remove the area most likely to be affected.

4. Be Aware Of “The Dirty Dozen And The Clean Fifteen”

If you can’t afford all-organic veg, pay particular attention to what is known as the “dirty dozen” – crops which have been tested to show higher pesticide residues on average. Make these a higher priority for organic purchase if funds are limited:

These are in general HIGHER in pesticide residues: [2]
• Apples
• Celery
• Strawberries
• Peaches
• Spinach
• Nectarines (imported)
• Grapes (imported)
• Sweet Bell Peppers
• Potatoes
• Blueberries
• Lettuce
• Kale
• Collard Greens
• Milk

On the other end of the spectrum, the following “clean fifteen” were found to have the lowest amount of pesticide residues:

These are in general LOWER in pesticide residues: [3]
• Onion
• Sweet Corn
• Pineapple
• Avocado
• Cabbage
• Sweet Peas
• Asparagus
• Mangoes
• Eggplant
• Kiwifruit
• Cantaloupe-domestic
• Sweet potatoes
• Grapefruit
• Watermelon
• Mushrooms

5. Don’t Eat The “Pesticide Pool”!

Certain fruits, such as apples, have a small hollow area at the top which can fill with water when the fruit is sprayed, leading to a higher concentration of pesticides in that area. Don’t eat the “pesticide pool”! Cut out and discard the very top part of non-organic fruits that have a hollow… especially the ones in the Dirty Dozen.

6. Grow Your Own Produce

Unless there are some crazy regulations preventing you from doing this, grow your own! When you grow your own, you have control over what goes in the soil and what gets sprayed on your plants. So you can be sure to give your kids pesticide-free veg! <3 Also, you get some exercise when you are gardening, plus you get to care for nature and pass on the wisdom. Remember, we are the "Gardeners of Eden!"

7. Wild Harvest / Forage

Obviously, don’t do this in a place where the air, soil or water is polluted, such as next to a road, as the plants will have been “breathing” those fumes! Also, you should only do this if you know your species accurately, so that you don’t accidentally pick a poisonous plant – very important indeed! However, if you “know your onions” and are in a location unblighted by chemical pollutants, there are an astonishing variety of wild, healthy, pure foods that you can eat. This book – “Food For Free” by Richard Mabey (note: based on plants growing in the UK) is considered to be one of the best books on the subject and is recommended not only by nature lovers but as a key manual by survivalists. For people in Australia, has a book on “edible weeds”.

8. Filter Tap Water Before Drinking!

A new study (Dec 2012) found an association between food allergies and dicholorphenols (commonly used in pesticides / herbicides and also added to tap water!) [4]

9. Keep Up The Pressure

…for full, transparent reviews of the toxicity of pesticides and their long-term effects on the ecosystem. Governments need to protect the health of the population as a first priority! Truly independent health studies should be carried out, not just the in-house studies conducted by the corporations: Scientific research over matters of public health should surely be “open source” and able to be independently validated.

Further Reading:

The more knowledgeable you are, the better the choices you can make. Here are some links to further resources:

Latest scientific studies on Glyphosate:

Latest scientific studies on 2,4-D:

Latest scientific studies on Pesticides (various types):

Latest scientific studies on essential oils as insecticides:

(Very few indeed have noted the “curiosity” that essential oils have maintained their effectiveness against insects throughout the ages whereas manufactured insecticides “fail” as bugs become tolerant to them…. why is this?)

Pesticide Action Network (via web archive)

I hope you have found this guide useful – if so, please share with all! If you can think of any more useful tips for the readers, please ad them in the comments.

NOTE: The information in this guide has not been evaluated by the FDA and is not to be considered as medical or professional advice of any kind, nor as a substitute for a professional consultation.

Click here to see reviews / purchase Biokleen Produce Wash on Amazon.

Click here to see reviews / purchase Beechwood Handle Vegetable Brush on Amazon.


[1] Carson, Rachel. Silent Spring. (1962)

[2] Good HouseKeeping, 2021. The New Dirty Dozen: 22 Foods to Eat Organic.

[3] EWG’s 2017 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™.

[4] Food Allergies? Pesticides In Tap Water Might Be To Blame.

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15 thoughts on “Nine Important Ways To Avoid Pesticide Residues In Food

  1. the one cup of vinegar in the sink water and soak for ten minutes mentioned to wash fruit…can you do the same with vegetables like salad greens,herbs,potatoes,carrots,celery,etc…does it work good for both fruits and vegetables

  2. Strange celery is in the HIGHER pesticide residue group as celery stalks contain natural insecticide so should need minimal spraying. Non-organic cabbage, broccoli, sprouts, mushrooms etc. should be boiled for a couple of minutes in salted water, drained and rinsed, then cooked.

  3. remember, as your washing all those fruits and veggies you are also over the sink breathing the pesticides as they rise into the air. i had a catering business and did this for several years. i finally fell ill. it was discovered i had pesticide poisoning. not from touching the water or food while washing because i had on rubber gloves. i was breathing the fumes because i was standing over the sink while washing everything. just keep that in mind.

  4. My concern is the fact that quite a bit of produce is sprayed with wax to be more aesthetically attractive. Wouldn’t that wax attract and trap pesticide residue, thus rendering washing them ineffective?

  5. A great resource for those who want to do safe foraging in the southern US is Full of surprises, often funny, and loaded with useful information! I subscribed when I knew I was moving to Florida and can highly recommend it 😉

  6. Another reason to eat Organic is because pesticides gets in the soil gets absorbed by the roots and most are void of many of the nutrients in the soil because of over fertilization.

  7. I have leukemia, so have to wash all fruits and vegs. as soon as I get them home. I was told not to use fruit/veg cleaners. Stick with water and vinegar. Don’t forget to clean your scrub brush by either putting it in the dishwasher or soaking it in vinegar.
    Susan, thank you for sharing about breathing in the fumes. I will be sure to wear a mask.

  8. Nice post, but putting mushrooms which are know for their ability to soak up polution from the environment, on the safe list is probably not a good idea?

  9. Just eat only organic.Otherwise, you’re supporting people who are putting poisons into the soil, water, which causes sickness. Cancers of all kinds. Many things cause cancers, but do your best to avoid this. Eat organic,non-gmo, use earth friendly cleaning products, and laundry products, and everything you use, does matter in the end. Take care of the earth now.

  10. Peeling and washing does not get rid of all the pesticides. The fruits and veggies absorb the crap,still causing headaches and,or body aches,cancer,the list goes on. Safer to it organic.

  11. I have read that if you soak fruits and vegetables in a solution of water and white vinegar, that this will also help cut the pesticide. Is this true?

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