The Dirty Dozen: How to Avoid Harmful Chemicals in Your Food

Disclaimer

You may be considering buying organic produce if you’re trying to eat healthier and reduce your pesticide exposure.

However, organic options can be more expensive.

The Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen lists can help you decide which fruits and vegetables to prioritize when buying organic and which are safe to buy non-organic.

What Are the Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen lists?

The Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen are lists of fruits and vegetables annually ranked according to their pesticide contamination. 

The lists are compiled by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). They analyze the latest fruit and vegetable testing data from the Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration. 

From 46,569 samples of 46 fruits and vegetables, traces of 251 different pesticides were found. These were found after the FDA removed dirt from its samples and the USDA washed and peeled them before testing.

The Clean Fifteen includes produce that is generally safe to buy conventionally. They have the lowest pesticide residue, while the Dirty Dozen is the most contaminated. Buying organic fruits and vegetables from the Dirty Dozen is recommended to reduce pesticide exposure.

Why Is It Important to Buy Organic Produce?

Buying organic produce can reduce exposure to harmful pesticides and chemicals found on conventionally grown fruits and vegetables. 

Pesticides can be beneficial and are meant to control weeds, insect infestation, and diseases. But some pesticides have been linked to various health problems, including cancer, reproductive issues, and developmental delays in children. 

Even more surprising is consuming produce with high residual pesticides may lessen the benefits that eating fruits and vegetables provide.

Some of USDA’s tests showed traces of pesticides that the Environmental Protection Agency has banned.

By buying organic from the Dirty Dozen, you can reduce your exposure to these harmful chemicals and prioritize your health.

The Dirty Dozen of Produce

The Dirty Dozen list includes 12 fruits and vegetables that are most likely to contain high levels of pesticides and chemicals. 

These include strawberries, spinach, kale and collard greens, peaches, pears, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, and potatoes. 

The dirtiest strawberry that the USDA tested contained residue from 22 different pesticides!

Buying these items organic is recommended to reduce exposure to harmful chemicals.

The Clean Fifteen of Produce

The Clean Fifteen list includes 15 fruits and vegetables that are least likely to contain high levels of pesticides and chemicals.

These include avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, onions, papayas, frozen sweet peas, eggplants, asparagus, cauliflower, cantaloupes, broccoli, mushrooms, cabbage, honeydew melons, and kiwis. 

While buying organic whenever possible is still recommended, these items are considered safe to buy conventionally.

How Do These Lists Help You?

Buying all organic produce is recommended, but it can add up quickly and is not feasible for most. 

By using the Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen lists, you can prioritize which fruits and vegetables to buy organic based on their likelihood of containing high levels of pesticides and chemicals. 

If you’re on a budget, focus on buying organic versions of the Dirty Dozen items, which include strawberries, spinach, kale, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, and potatoes. 

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