Food News Nutrition

The New Dirty Dozen

the dirty dozen

Every year, the Environmental Working Group releases a list of the 12 most pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables on the market – a.k.a. The Dirty Dozen.  On this list is produce that tests positive for high levels of pesticides and insecticides even after washing.  If you like to eat the stuff on this list and have the access and financial means, buy organic.  And/or, opt for produce on The Clean Fifteen, which includes the fruits and vegetables with the lowest pesticide contamination.  Here are the two lists for 2012.

the dirty dozen

As you can see, this year’s Dirty Dozen is actually a Dirty 14.  Leafy greens (kale and collards) and green beans did not meet the traditional Dirty Dozen criteria but were so commonly contaminated with highly toxic insecticides that they were included, making the list the “Dirty Dozen Plus” for the first time in history.

Scary produce facts from this year’s research:

  • The most contaminated fruits, in alphabetical order, are apples, domestic blueberries, grapes, imported nectarines, peaches and strawberries.
  • The most contaminated vegetables are bell peppers, celery, cucumbers, lettuce, potatoes and spinach.
  • Every sample of imported nectarines tested positive for pesticides, as did 98% of apples and 96% imported plums.
  • Blueberries and strawberries both had 13 different pesticides detected on a single sample; grapes had 15.
  • Grapes have more types of pesticides than any other produce, with 64 different pesticides.
  • 96% of celery samples tested positive for pesticides, as did 91% of potatoes.
  • A single bell pepper sample was contaminated with 15 different pesticides, followed by a single sample of celery with 13.
  • Bell peppers had 88 different pesticide residues. Cucumbers had 81, and lettuce 78.

This summer, I’ve been eating — and feeding Lucy — tons of non-organic blueberries and nectarines, simply because I can’t often find organic versions or haven’t paid close attention.  Time to switch to some different fruits!

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  • Sue
    July 30, 2012 at 6:33 am

    Thanks for posting this, Amelia! It helps me stay motivated to buy organic.

  • Richard
    July 30, 2012 at 4:52 pm

    Whoa – I guess it’s time to start being a lot more careful. Richard

  • Richard
    July 31, 2012 at 6:51 am

    It might be time to turn increasingly to frozen veggies and fruits, for at least some of these products. I’ve been using Safeway’s frozen organic blueberries for several years, and find them to be of excellent quality. You may have already written about this, but have you come across information that might give an indication of how frozen foods do in the pesticide and insecticide department? Do the major producers “clean” their products well, before they freeze them? This is another great article!

  • Amelia
    July 31, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    Unfortunately frozen produce is usually no better – same production techniques, and often times it’s imported which means it’s even less eco-friendly. See this article for more info:

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