The good things in life are worth waiting for, or so they say. But after holding my breath and pacing up and down for more than three weeks, I have learned that there is an exception to every rule. In this case, it was my tardy response from Waitrose.
It’s a while ago now, so I’ll refresh your memory: I asked about their awareness of the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen (ranking their pesticide absorption rates of popular fruit and veg). I also asked why they felt the need to shred the organic kale they sell.
First, the explanation of the kale (duly punctuated on Waitrose’s behalf). They said: “When slicing fresh produce, there may be some low level oxidisation of nutrients next to the cut surface, but the inherent properties of great nutrition does not change. We have looked at some research undertaken which has said contrary to this in the past. However, the control data has not been very good. When retaining quality and nutrients, we do see an effective cool chain as being really important and we do focus on this with all of our growers.”
I wrote back and asked them if, regardless of this view, they accepted that it would still be preferable NOT to shred it. I have never even received an acknowledgement, let alone a response, but I suspect that their blade-happy tendencies are more to do with being able to pre-weigh and bag in order to get more people through the tills at a faster rate.
To retract from my opening observation, there’s one rule which, as far as I’m concerned has NO exceptions: If it ain’t broke (or shredded), don’t fix it.
Plus, there is evidence to suggest that cold storage and refrigerated transport can damage the cell integrity (and therefore the nutritional quality) of fruit and veg. It’s an on-going debate, particularly among raw food advocates, but given that the produce – in this case kale – has already been damaged from the shredding, to then expose it to unnaturally cold conditions is adding insult to injury in my book. The stuff will still be very good for you, but why did they feel the need to do it in the first place?
You can’t tell me that food in cold storage is as healthful as the moment it was picked. And given that many major supermarkets store fruit and veg in REALLY cold conditions for up to a year, it’s not like we’re talking a short journey down the road in a refrigerated lorry.
Second, the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen (again, properly punctuated for your reading pleasure). They said: “The dirty dozen is a list compiled within a USA context. Many of the uses of pesticides which are fully permitted on their crops are not permitted in the EU. Using kale as an example, our growers use no organochlorine pesticides on them and one organophosphate on the small plants whilst they are being raised in greenhouses before they ever get planted into our fields. So if we were to assess Waitrose’s kale in the context of the dirty dozen list, its inclusion would be unfair.”
OK, I hold my hands up – I didn’t realise that those two lists were exclusive to the USA, particularly as I have seen the same two lists published in at least 1 UK magazine. But my response to this was – and again, I have never had a comeback to this – the reason why many of the fruit and veg are on the “bad” list is because they have thinner skins than others and so their absorption rate of anything surely remains the same, no matter what. Plus, we may use different chemicals here, and in some cases fewer, but they are still poisons when all is said and done.
In order to redeem myself, I trotted off to the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) (www.pan-uk.org) Earlier this year, this group published a study called “Pesticides on a Plate”, FOCUSSING PURELY ON UK FRUIT AND VEG.
So cut these lists out and stick them in your handbag/manbag:
Worst fruit (the ones you should try to buy organic or avoid, worst first): citrus; pineapples; pears; apples; grapes; strawberries; peaches and nectarines; apricots
Worst veg (worst first): tomatoes; parsnips (evil little blighters anyway); cucumber; carrots; lettuce; beans in a pod; peas in a pod; sweet potatoes; courgettes and marrows; yams
Best fruit (the ones that absorb the fewest nasties, starting with the least absorbent): star fruit; plums; exotic fruit; kiwi fruit; banana; raspberries; other berries; melons
Best veg (best first): corn on the cob; leeks; aubergines; onions; ginger; chilli; potatoes; peppers; celery; spinach
Ironically, kale doesn’t get a mention! Obviously, the lists above are more detailed than the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen, but for comparison’s sake, out of the 27 fruit and veg mentioned in the DD and CF, in the PAN study, 7 were not mentioned, but of the remaining 20, only 5 did not agree with the DD and CF, which kinda proves my point about absorption being the same whichever side of the Atlantic you are.