Dirty Dozen, Clean Thirteen

Dirty Dozen, Clean Thirteen

Confronted with a budget, when going to the market and facing the produce available, a question often comes to mind. WHICH fruits/veggies should I be most careful of purchasing as organic.  Hopefully all, but if I have to make a choice… what do I base it on?


An excellent resource is the “Environmental Working Group” (EWG), which is tasked to do studies on products, evaluating contamination levels.

All 48 of the most popular fruits and vegetables had pesticide residue data and were placed on a list from the most to the least contaminated. Residue that could not be washed off. Three items, nectarines, blueberries and snap pea had very different ratings depending on whether they were imported or not.

You can go to their EWG‘s site, on an annual basis  and see what their testing shows for each year.  To see a list of the most contaminated and the least, go to see the Dirty Dozen, Clean Fifteen. You are also able print out the list so that you have something to actually go to the store with, to keep you on target.

The one caveat, and it IS a big one, is that they are only looking at pesticide residue. They are not looking at what is or is not, GMO.  For example, corn & soybean are virtually all GMO products.  If you want Non-GMO products, then organic is the ticket!

From their website:

Highlights of Dirty Dozen™ 2014

EWG’s Dirty Dozen™ list of produce includes apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, spinach, sweet bell peppers, imported nectarines, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas and potatoes. Each of these foods contained a number of different pesticide residues and showed high concentrations of pesticides relative to other produce items.

In particular:

  • Every sample of imported nectarines and 99 percent of apple samples tested positive for at least one pesticide residue.
  • The average potato had more pesticides by weight than any other food.
  • A single grape sample contained 15 pesticides. Single samples of celery, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas and strawberries showed 13 different pesticides apiece.

 The Clean Fifteen™

EWG’s Clean Fifteen™ for 2014 – the produce least likely to hold pesticide residues – are avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbage, frozen sweet peas, onions, asparagus, mangoes, papayas, kiwis, eggplant, grapefruit, cantaloupe, cauliflower and sweet potatoes. Relatively few pesticides were detected on these foods, and tests found low total concentrations of pesticides.

Notable findings:

  • Avocados were the cleanest: only 1 percent of avocado samples showed any detectable pesticides.
  • Some 89 percent of pineapples, 82 percent of kiwi, 80 percent of papayas, 88 percent of mango and 61 percent of cantaloupe had no residues.
  • No single fruit sample from the Clean Fifteen™ tested positive for more than 4 types of pesticides.
  • Detecting multiple pesticide residues is extremely rare on Clean Fifteen™ vegetables. Only 5.5 percent of Clean Fifteen samples had two or more pesticides.

Dirty Dozen PLUS™

For the third year, we have expanded the Dirty Dozen™ with a Plus category to highlight two foods that contain trace levels of highly hazardous pesticides. Leafy greens – kale and collard greens – and hot peppers do not meet traditional Dirty Dozen™ ranking criteria but were frequently contaminated with insecticides that are toxic to the human nervous system. EWG recommends that people who eat a lot of these foods buy organic instead.

This group’s research is putting the control back in our hands. Vote with your dollars, and let the produce manager know why!



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