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I am positive that everyone reading this has bought a piece of produce, and if you have you might have noticed a small sticker with numbers written on it. You might not pay attention to things like that, but maybe you should!

You might just think that they are some mark that manufacturers use for their own purpose, but the truth is that these numbers are meaningful and they can tell a lot about the product.

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For example, any number found on the sticker that begins with a 9 is there to show that the produce is organic. On the other hand, products that have numbers that start with the numbers 4 or 3 are products that are grown in a conventional way. Conventional farming relies on pesticides and chemicals which help the manufacturer get larger, faster and more lasting crops.

The Dirty Dozen Plus

These foods have very high pesticide loads and should always be purchased organic or grown yourself!

  • Apples
  • Celery
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Grapes
  • Hot Peppers
  • Nectarines (imported)
  • Peaches
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Kale/Collard Greens
  • Summer Squash

Clean 15

The following foods were found by EWG to be relatively low in pesticide residue. They may be good conventional options for those on a budget.

  1. Asparagus
  2. Avocados
  3. Cabbage
  4. Cantaloupe
  5. Sweet Corn [Editors Note: beware of genetically modified varieties. If you want to avoid GMOs, eat only organic corn/]
  6. Eggplant
  7. Grapefruit
  8. Kiwi
  9. Mangoes
  10. Mushrooms
  11. Onions
  12. Papayas [Editors Note: beware of genetically modified varieties. If you want to avoid GMOs eat only organic papaya.]
  13. Pineapples
  14. Sweet Peas
  15. Sweet Potatoes

Now, for the number we have all been waiting for, 8. Any sticker starting with the number 8 means that the produce is GMO. GMOs mean that the food is created by a person or machine to maximize productivity. This type of food should always be avoided!

At the end of the day, local farmers are your best friends and you should try and buy from farmers markets or small local food stores whenever possible. This way you can ask as many questions as you would like about the food that you are bringing home.