The Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen

Do I dare to eat a peach?

— T.S. Eliot, from the Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

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There’s no two ways about it: we pay dearly for our organics. The premium is usually 20% – 100% of the price of conventional counterparts.

The Dirty Dozen

You just have to bite the bullet with these twelve fruits and vegetables. Pesticide levels are so high that even with careful washing and peeling there is no way to avoid ingesting a good-sized dose. It’s estimated that you can reduce your total pesticide exposure by 80% if you stick with organic varieties of just this dozen.

Fruits:
Apples
Cherries
Grapes (imported)
Nectarines
Peaches
Pears
Raspberries
Strawberries

Vegetables:
Bell pepper
Celery
Potatoes
Spinach

Thin-skinned fruits and vegetables are almost always more susceptible to pesticides leeching into the flesh. Apples have especially high levels because of the crevices at the top and bottom of the fruit. Similarly, spinach and celery are very porous, leaving pesticides trapped in the small openings.While peppers have thick skins, pesticide residue clings to the surface even when they are scrubbed.

The Clean Fifteen

These fifteen fruits and vegetables tend to have low levels of pesticide contamination even when they are grown conventionally. They deliver less bang for the organic buck. If you are rationing your grocery budget, there is room for compromise with these items.

Fruits:
Avocados
Pineapple
Mangos
Kiwis
Papaya
Watermelons
Grapefruit

Vegetables:
Onions
Sweet corn
Asparagus
Peas
Cabbage
Eggplant
Broccoli
Tomatoes
Sweet Potatoes

Most of the fifteen have thick, protective skins, husks, or pods, while broccoli and cabbage are cold weather crops that are grown when pests are less prevalent. Tree fruits often require fewer pesticides because they are high above the ground where they are less susceptible to insects.

The Environmental Working Group website provides a complete list of the 47 most popular produce items and their levels of pesticide contamination. The worst offender (this year it’s peaches) is assigned a score of 100, with the contamination levels of all the other items calibrated to that score.

Heidi Kenney has created an illustrated produce shopping guide of the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen. You can download a printable cheat sheet from her website My Paper Crane.


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5 Responses to The Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen

  1. hi,nice blog…..

  2. toya says:

    I thought that tomatoes and potatoes were supposed to be some of the worst offenders. Surprised they made the clean list.

    ..Scary picture, btw 🙂

    -Toya

  3. Janice says:

    Such a little piece of the problem, but we do what we can, Baby steps…

  4. thanks for sharing such important information….I think its important to re evaluate how we eat, and what we are eating….knowing the facts about what we eat are very important.

  5. Monet says:

    First of all…I love that T.S. Elliot poem…one of my favorites. Thank you for posting this list! It reminded me of the importance of buying organic apples and strawberries (two of my favorite fruits)

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