An Apple a Day?

Yesterday morning during work I decided to take a break and eat an apple.  There was nothing unusual about the apple or the taste.  Shortly after eating it I felt very flushed, warm, unusual.  It caught my attention and I wondered if it has something to do with eating the apple.  I was feeling like my parasympathetic system was over exited possibly due to a pesticide.  I decided to do an Internet search to see which foods likely had the greatest pesticide residues.  I was led to several sights that discussed this topic.  Most reference the “the dirty dozen”, a list of the foods that have been found to have the greatest amount of pesticides, and the “clean 15”, foods with the least.  Much of this information seems to come from the Environmental Working Group.  At the top of the dirty list?  Apples.

I don’t know if the apple was responsible for my symptoms, but I will pay greater attention to these list and try to buy organic when its a food on the dirty list.   The other alternative is to use a fruit/vegetable wash like “Fit”.

cleanWhat are the “clean 15″ : Onion , Avocado, Sweet Corn, Pineapple, Mango, Asparagus, Sweet Peas, Kiwi, Cabbage, Eggplant, Papaya, Watermelon, Broccoli, Tomato, Sweet Potato



peachThe “dirty dozen” fruits and vegetables: Peaches, Apples, Bell peppers, Celery, Cherries, Nectarines, Strawberries, Kale, Lettuce, Imported grapes, Carrots, Pears.  I would not say that these fruits should not be eaten as there are clearly health benefits, but it may be best to go organic or make sure that you use a fruit/veg wash like “Fit”.


EWGs Methodology:


The Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides ranks pesticide contamination for 53 popular fruits and vegetables based on an analysis of 51,000 tests for pesticides on these foods, conducted from 2000 to 2009 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the federal Food and Drug Administration. Nearly all the studies on which the guide is based tested produce after it had been rinsed or peeled.

Contamination was measured in 6 different ways:

  • Percent of samples tested with detectable pesticides
  • Percent of samples with two or more pesticides
  • Average number of pesticides found on a single sample
  • Average amount (level in parts per million) of all pesticides found
  • Maximum number of pesticides found on a single sample
  • Total number of pesticides found on the commodity

For each metric, we ranked all of the foods based on their individual USDA test results, then normalized the scores on a 1-100 scale (with 100 being the highest). To get a commodity’s final score, we added up the six normalized scores from each metric. The full Shopper’s Guide list shows the fruits and vegetables in order of these final scores.

The goal is to include a range of different measures of pesticide contamination to account for uncertainties in the science. All categories were treated equally; for example, a pesticide linked to cancer is counted the same as a pesticide linked to brain and nervous system toxicity, and the likelihood of eating multiple pesticides on a single food is given the same weight as the amounts of the pesticide detected or the percent of the crop on which pesticides were found.

The EWG’s Shopper’s Guide is not built on a complex assessment of pesticide risks but instead reflects the overall pesticide loads of common fruits and vegetables. This approach best captures the uncertainties of the risks of pesticide exposure and gives shoppers confidence that when they follow the guide they are buying foods with consistently lower overall levels of pesticide contamination.



  1. Deren J Blessman says

    In an effort to be more health conscience this is good information. My question Dr. Blessman is, would removing the outside layers of the dirty dozen help with reducing the amount of pesticide chemical intake?

    • betterme says

      Very good question. Most of the residues are on the skin of the fruit/vegetable so peeling is an effective way to avoid the pesticide residues. This is now my behavior with non-organic apples : )

  2. Dr. J. Blessman: Great insight on pesticide on an apple, that could have contribute to symptoms that you experienced after eating the apple. Are you sure it wasn’t the natural sugar in the apple that contributed to your flush feeling?

    • James Blessman says

      Thanks for you comment and question. In response, I am not sure of the reason for my flushing, but I did not experience the symptoms when I ate a peeled apple. I have not tried eating a non organic apple that was not peeled : )

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