Dirty Dozen and Clean 15

Please follow and like us:


You may well have heard about the ‘dirty dozen and clean 15’ before. If you haven’t, keep reading! And if you have, still keep reading!

Pesticides are directly applied to the food we eat as part of the agricultural process with the intention to kill insects, plants and mould or mildew that interfere with the production. Yet many of these pesticides have shown to be harmful to people at high doses. Even the World Health Organisation (WHO) states that pesticide residue on food ‘may induce adverse health effects including cancer, effects on reproduction, immune or nervous systems’.

You may like to watch the video I posted some time back about just how harmful some of these pesticides are to many communities around the world.

Every year since 2004, the Enviromental Working Group (EWG) in the United States (US) has analyzed data on pesticide loads in common fruits and vegetables. It then turns those into its famous ‘dirty dozen and clean 15’ lists. These are to help consumers like you and me avoid excess chemical exposure in everyday foods.

The lists are actually based on results of more than 35,200 samples of produce tested by the The US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Notably, the samples are tested for pesticides AFTER they have been prepared to be eaten. This means the produce has been thoroughly washed and, if applicable, peeled. After this process, pesticide residues are still detected on many of the fruits and vegetables.

Whilst it’s ideal to eat organic all of the time, sometimes it just isn’t practical for a variety of reasons. One of the major barriers for many people is cost, which is where the ‘dirty dozen and clean 15’ lists are important.

If organic farming is the natural way, shouldn’t organic produce just be called “produce” and make the pesticide-laden stuff take the burden of an adjective? – Ymber Delecto

The ‘dirty dozen‘ is basically the fruits and vegetables which are most heavily contaminated with pesticides, whilst the ‘clean 15‘ are those which are least contaminated. You can find out more about the process the EWG undertakes to devise these lists from their website.

If you look closely at the ‘dirty dozen’, you will notice that the fruit and vegetables listed are typically those we eat unpeeled, or which come without a protective skin. This is the main reason why I NEVER buy conventional strawberries and grapes for my family!

Although similar, the farming processes and pesticides used in the US are not entirely replicated in the Australian environment. That’s where things like the book, Your Food are important. This is specific to our local farming and agricultural processes. An extremely worthwhile investment.

What is quite interesting about the latest ‘dirty dozen’ list is the changes from previous years. Spinach has jumped up to number two, as it ‘contained on average, twice the pesticide load by weight than any other crop.’ And pears are a newcomer to the list as pesticide use has ‘increased dramatically’ in recent years. So much so that, some baby food purees containing pear cannot legally be sold in Europe (EU) because pesticide residue levels are too high. EU regulations prohibit baby and processed foods from containing more than 10 parts per billion of any type of pesticide.

If you can’t source all organic, simply avoiding the ‘dirty dozen’ and making an effort to buy from the ‘clean 15’ is a wonderful alternative option to reducing your pesticide consumption. Or another tip I’ve seen often is to try washing your regular produce in a large bowl filled with four parts water to one part plain white vinegar. Make sure you rinse well afterwards!

As a parting comment, please take the time to read a previous post I wrote about ‘SLOW’ food. It has some great tips on ways to eat well and SLOW without it breaking the bank.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *