Consumer Reports: Avoiding pesticides in fruits and vegetables

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Liz Cho looks at a Consumer Reports survey on when to buy organic fruits and vegetables. (WABC)

We know it's healthy to eat more fruits and vegetables. But a lot of produce contains pesticides.

That's especially a concern for children because they're still growing and they metabolize toxins differently. Consumer Reports has identified 10 foods you should always buy organic and some where non-organic is a reasonable alternative.

Most supermarkets sell a wide variety of fruits and vegetables from a host of different countries. Produce samples are tested every year by the U-S Department of Agriculture for pesticide levels.

Consumer Reports' Food Safety Center has analyzed the data and developed a Risk Guide for nearly 50 fruits and vegetables.

Its analysis found risk levels often vary depending on where the produce is grown.

"For example, cantaloupes grown in Honduras, Mexico, Guatemala, and Costa Rica all had a lower risk level than cantaloupes grown in the United States," said Urvashi Rangan, Ph.D., of Consumer Reports Food Safety and Sustainability Center.

Organic produce always fell in the low or very low risk category. So Consumer Reports says buying organic is your best option. But organic produce costs an average of 49 percent more.

So Consumer Reports ranked fruits and vegetables on when it's most important to buy organic. For fruits, there are five: peaches, tangerines, nectarines, strawberries, and cranberries. And these vegetables: green beans, bell and hot peppers, sweet potatoes, and carrots.

"The good news is we did find some fruits and vegetables where conventional versions were about as safe as the organic versions when it comes to pesticide residues," said Rangan.

These include broccoli grown in the U-S and Mexico; U-S cherries; grapes from the U-S, Chile, Mexico, and Peru; and lettuce from the U-S and Mexico.

Whatever produce you buy, Consumer Reports says wash it thoroughly. Its recommendations are based on fruits and vegetables that have been rinsed and any inedible peels and rinds removed.

Consumer Reports asked for a comment from the Alliance for Food and Farming, an organization that represents conventional and organic produce growers. Teresa Thorne, a spokeswoman, says, "Conventionally grown fruits and vegetables are very safe."
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