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  • Writer's pictureRedwood Naturopathic Medicine

Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen: Your Guide to Buying Produce


Every year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases its annual "Dirty Dozen" and "Clean Fifteen" lists, which rank the levels of pesticide residues found in popular fruits and vegetables. These lists can help consumers make informed decisions when buying produce, especially for those who want to reduce their pesticide exposure.


The Dirty Dozen is a list of 12 fruits and vegetables that have been found to have the highest levels of pesticide residues, even after washing and peeling. Strawberries, spinach, and kale have been topping the list for the past few years. Other produce on the list include nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, and potatoes. According to the EWG, a single sample of strawberries tested positive for 22 different pesticides, and spinach samples had, on average, 1.8 times as much pesticide residue by weight than any other crop.



Dirty Dozen

  • Strawberries

  • Spinach

  • Kale, Collard Greens, Mustard Greens

  • Peaches

  • Pears

  • Nectarines

  • Apples

  • Grapes

  • Bell Peppers

  • Cherries

  • Blueberries

  • Green beans


On the other hand, the Clean Fifteen lists 15 fruits and vegetables with the lowest levels of pesticide residues. This year's list includes avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, onions, papayas, sweet peas (frozen), eggplants, asparagus, kiwis, cabbage, cauliflower, cantaloupes, broccoli, mushrooms, and honeydew melons. According to the EWG, less than 2% of samples of avocados, sweet corn, and pineapples tested positive for pesticides, and none of the samples of sweet peas, papayas, and eggplants had more than one pesticide detected on them.




Clean Fifteen:

  • Avocado

  • Sweet Corn

  • Pineapple

  • Onion

  • Papaya

  • Sweet Peas (frozen)

  • Asparagus

  • Honeydew

  • Kiwi

  • Cabbage

  • Mushrooms

  • Mangoes

  • Sweet potatoes

  • Watermelon

  • Carrots

It is important to note that just because a fruit or vegetable is on the Dirty Dozen list does not mean it is unsafe to eat. The EWG recommends that people continue to eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, even if they are on the Dirty Dozen list. However, they suggest that consumers opt for organic produce whenever possible, as organic farming practices do not use synthetic pesticides. Organic produce can be more expensive, but many believe the health benefits outweigh the cost.


Consumers can also reduce their exposure to pesticides by thoroughly washing their produce. The EWG recommends washing fruits and vegetables under running water for at least 30 seconds and scrubbing firm produce with a brush. This can help remove any dirt, bacteria, or pesticide residues that may be on the surface of the produce. However, washing produce may not completely remove all pesticide residues, especially if they have been absorbed into the flesh of the fruit or vegetable.


In addition to the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists, the EWG has also released a Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce, which ranks 46 different fruits and vegetables based on their pesticide residue levels. The guide can be found on the EWG's website and can be a helpful resource for those looking to reduce their pesticide exposure.


In conclusion, the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists can be helpful tools for consumers who want to make informed decisions when buying produce. While it is important to continue to eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, choosing organic produce whenever possible and washing produce thoroughly can help reduce exposure to pesticides. For those who do not have access to organic produce, choosing items from the Clean Fifteen list or making an at-home produce wash (listed below) can be a great alternatives. The most important thing is to continue to make fruits and vegetables a regular part of your diet for optimal health.



Here's a recipe for a natural produce wash that can help remove pesticides and other contaminants from your fruits and vegetables:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of distilled water

  • 1 cup of white vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon of baking soda

  • What are the fruits and vegetables included in the Clean Fifteen list?1 teaspoon of lemon juice

  • A spray bottle

Instructions:

  1. Mix the distilled water and white vinegar in a bowl.

  2. Add the baking soda and stir gently until it dissolves.

  3. Add the lemon juice and stir again.

  4. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle.

  5. Spray the mixture onto your fruits and vegetables and let it sit for a few minutes.

  6. Use a vegetable brush to scrub the produce gently.

  7. Rinse the produce with water to remove any remaining solution.

  8. Pat the produce dry with a clean towel or paper towel.

Your produce should now be clean and free of pesticides and other contaminants. It's important to note that this solution may not remove all pesticides, so it's still a good idea to purchase organic produce whenever possible.

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