Buying Organic Foods

Dear Dr. Cory:

Is it really necessary to buy organic foods for my family?

Kathi M.
St. Louis, Missouri

Dear Ms. M.:
Organic foods are grown without the chemical fertilizers and pesticides used on “regular” foods. Most experts agree that both food types are safe and nutritious. That said, a 2010 study suggests that exposure to certain pesticides may be linked to an increased risk for developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in young children.

But fruits and vegetables are vital to a healthy diet. Reap their many benefits by eating a wide variety of five or more servings every day. To minimize any risk from pesticides:

• Consider organic versions of the 12 fruits and vegetables that would ordinarily retain more chemical residue (see The Dirty Dozen).

• Buy seasonal and domestic produce. Other varieties may be imported from countries with less rigorous pesticide regulations.

• Rinse fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables under running water, and scrub firm-skinned produce with a brush to remove as much residue as possible.

• Trim outer leaves of leafy produce, and remove tops and bottoms of apples, peaches, pears, celery, etc., where pesticides can collect.

• Consider coring and peeling the fruits and vegetables listed below because they may retain higher amounts of pesticide residue.

The Dirty Dozen

Although they still meet U.S. government safety guidelines, according to the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG), these 12 fruits and vegetables retain more pesticide residue than other foods:

apples, celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, imported nectarines, imported grapes, sweet bell peppers, potatoes, domestic blueberries, lettuce, and kale/collard greens.

To download a pocket-sized version of The Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15 (those lowest in pesticides), visit

If you have a children's health question, Dr. Cory would like to hear from you.

Disclaimer: The Ask Dr. Cory health information is for general educational purposes only. It is not intended to, and does not, provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should always consult your family doctor when you have medical questions or concerns about you or your family's health. If this is an emergency, call 911, or contact emergency services in your area.