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The Dirty Dozen and The Clean Fifteen | How to Buy Fruits and Vegetables

The Dirty Dozen and The Clean Fifteen | How to Buy Fruits and Vegetables

Have you heard of The Dirty Dozen?

This might sound like a Hollywood blockbuster, but you’d be more likely to encounter them in your local grocery store than you are at the box office.

The Dirty Dozen refers to the top 12 fruits and vegetables that are highly recommended to buy organic. The list is put out by the Environmental Working Group annually, along with the Clean Fifteen - the crops grown with the least amount of pesticides. These lists are informed by the Pesticide Data Program, which is a pesticide monitoring program enacted by the US government.

Data makes the argument for organic pretty irrefutable if you needed any convincing. Research from these reports shows that as much as 70% of conventional produce contains pesticide residue. Strawberries are at the top of the list with reporting showing that they can contain as much as TWENTY-TWO different pesticides in just one sample (1). Spinach consistently comes in at the number two spot, with 97% of samples containing pesticides.

Kale stays in the 3rd spot on the dirty dozen list while now being joined by collard and mustard greens as being among the produce items with the highest pesticide load.  The pesticide most frequently detected on kale and mustard and collard greens is Dacthal, a pesticide the EPA classfies as a possible human carcinogen and is banned from use in the European Union.

New this year is bell and hot peppers after having been tested for the first time since 2012.  Peppers contain concerning levels of acephate and chlorpyrifos, organophosphate insecticides that can harm children's developing brains and are banned from some US crops and entirely from use in the EU and Canada. Peppers also had the most pesticides of the 46 fruits and vegetables tested, a staggering 115, 21 more then second highest amount. 

Countless studies link repeated exposure to pesticides with a variety of health issues and diseases. The impact of ingestion of these toxins on our health might not be immediately apparent, but over time, even low-level exposure can take its toll. According to the Pesticide Action Network in the UK, “Low doses don’t always cause immediate effects, but over time, they can cause very serious illnesses. Long term pesticide exposure has been linked to the development of Parkinson’s disease; asthma; depression and anxiety; attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); and cancer, including leukemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

But fortunately, if you have been eating conventional food, people rapidly see reductions in uniary pesticide concentrations.  Eating organic food not effected by pesticides has been show to lower total pesticde exposure, improve fetility and birth outcomes, lower bmi, and reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes.

Next time you go to make a grocery run, go informed. Here are the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists for 2021.

The Dirty Dozen

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale
  4. Nectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Cherries
  8. Peaches
  9. Pears
  10. Bell and Hot Peppers
  11. Celery
  12. Tomatoes

    The Clean Fifteen

    1. Avocados
    2. Sweet Corn
    3. Pineapples
    4. Onions
    5. Papaya
    6. Sweet Peas (Frozen)
    7. Eggplants
    8. Asparagus
    9. Broccoli
    10. Cabbages
    11. Kiwi
    12. Cauliflower
    13. Mushrooms
    14. Honeydew
    15. Melon Cantaloupes


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