Getting familiar with the Dirty Dozen

With the movement towards eating organic or clean foods growing, a group of foods collectively called “The Dirty Dozen” is set to gain your attention.

The dirty dozen is the name coined by clean food advocates at the Environmental Working Group for a list of 12 fruits and vegetables known to absorb the highest concentrations of pesticides and chemicals before they arrive on your plate.

Which foods are on the Dirty Dozen list which changes slightly each year? According to EWG, this year’s list includes apples, peaches, nectarines, strawberries, grapes, celery, spinach, sweet bell peppers, cherries, pears, tomatoes, and potatoes.

In EWG’s analysis of food testing by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, this year’s list of foods all contained higher concentrations of pesticides than other produce. In the case of the Dirty Dozen, experts say buy organic to be safe. “These foods contain chemicals that can impact your health and are known contributors to asthma, birth defects, autism, learning disabilities, reproductive issues and cancers,” said Stephanie Hall, a certified nutrition coach and plant-based chef.

Eating organic comes at a higher price for many who find organic options more expensive or not accessible in their local grocery market. Even still, Hall recommends avoiding the highly-contaminated foods if you are trying to address existing health issues. Costco and Walmart, she said, are great places to find organic produce options at a more affordable price point. Another option is your local farmer’s market. “Sometimes it takes quite a bit to be certified organic,” said Hall. “Many farmers have organic practices though they are not certified organic by the USDA.”

The opposite end of the table, and also titled by EWG, is the Clean 15. These foods are least likely to contain pesticides. The list includes sweet corn, avocados, pineapples, cabbage, onions frozen sweet peas, papayas, asparagus, mangoes, eggplant, honeydew melon, kiwis, cantaloupe, cauliflower and grapefruit. The group found avocados and sweet corn were the least contaminated of all with just one percent of samples showing any pesticidal residue.

The ultimate goal, Hall said, is to do your best to make healthier food choices and to know which foods are best for your health. “I tell my clients, we want to shoot for purchasing organic foods. If you can’t, at least eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.”


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