Have You Heard About the Dirty Dozen in Produce?

This is a list of the dozen fruits and vegetables that are the most difficult to clean and will inevitably hold onto some of the pesticides and chemicals used to make them grow.


I think we all know by now that we must have fruits and vegetables in our diets to stay healthy.  As with most things in this world, there is a story that lies underneath everything that you grew up to believe is right and good.

Well, the idea of the “Dirty Dozen” was brought up to me about two years ago by a friend of my daughter who is a vegetarian.  She heard that we were trying out vegetarian eating and she asked if I knew about the “Dirty Dozen”.  Of course I hadn’t, but all I needed to do was check the web and I found all the information I needed to set me straight!

As you can imagine, some produce is sprayed with chemicals and pesticides to either grow them bigger or keep them from getting eating by pests.  I’m sure there is some washing that takes place when the produce is packaged, but even at home, it’s difficult to get all the pesticides washed off.

The Dirty Dozen list is a collection of 12 fruits and vegetables that government testing has shown are the most difficult to clean and will hold some level of pesticide residue.

How do you combat this?  Well, avoid purchasing the most contaminated foods in the grocery store.  As replacements, try buying organic because the USDA rules do not allow pesticides to be used on any crop that displays the certified organic label.

Here’s the 2010 list, but keep in mind that the list changes every year so keep up-to-date by checking out the “Dirty Dozen” on the web.  Much of the following information came from Dan Shapley of The Daily Green News Blog.


1. Celery
Crunchy, crispy celery tops the new list from the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization that updates its “Dirty Dozen” food list each year for grocery shoppers. Remember, celery has no protective skin, which makes it almost impossible to wash off the chemicals. Best to buy organic!

2. Peaches
Multiple pesticides (as many as 62 of them) are regularly applied to these delicately skinned fruits in conventional orchards. Sad to say, but it is difficult to find organic peaches.  Fruits that are safer and might be an option include watermelon, tangerines, oranges, and grapefruit.


3. Strawberries
If you buy strawberries, especially out of season, they’re most likely imported from countries that have less-stringent regulations for pesticide use. That’s enough to scare anyone to buy organic!

4. Apples
Like peaches, apples are typically grown with poisons to kill a variety of pests, from fungi to insects. Scrubbing and peeling doesn’t eliminate chemical residue completely, so it’s best to buy organic when it comes to apples. Peeling a fruit or vegetable also strips away many of their beneficial nutrients.

5. Blueberries
New on the Dirty Dozen list in 2010, blueberries are treated with as many as 52 pesticides, making them one of the dirtiest berries on the market.


6. Nectarines
Nectarines rank up there with apples and peaches among the dirtiest tree fruit.

7. Bell peppers
Peppers have thin skins that don’t offer much of a barrier to pesticides. They’re often heavily sprayed with insecticides. Go organic or try green peas, broccoli, and cabbage.

8. Spinach
New on the list for 2010, spinach can be laced with as many as 48 different pesticides, making it one of the most contaminated green leafy vegetables.


9. Kale
Traditionally kale is known as a hardier vegetable that rarely suffers from pests and disease, but it was found to have high amounts of pesticide residue when tested this year. Can’t find organic? Safer alternatives include cabbage, asparagus, and broccoli.

10. Cherries
Even locally grown cherries are not necessarily safe. In fact, in one survey in recent years, cherries grown in the U.S. were found to have three times more pesticide residue then imported cherries.


11. Potatoes
America’s popular spud reappears on the 2010 Dirty Dozen list, after a year hiatus. America’s favorite vegetable can be laced with as many as 37 different pesticides. Can’t find organic? Safer alternatives include eggplant, cabbage, and earthy mushrooms.


12. Grapes

Imported grapes run a much greater risk of contamination than those grown domestically. Only imported grapes make the 2010 Dirty Dozen list. Vineyards can be sprayed with different pesticides during different growth periods of the grape, and no amount of washing or peeling will eliminate contamination because of the grape’s thin skin. Remember too that wine and juices are made from grapes so try all organic here as well.

And, just for fun, thought you might like to see a list of the “cleanest” foods, which rank very low in pesticides which means you can feel good about buying conventional versions of these!  Take note that many of them have a very thick skin which helps protect the part we eat from the chemicals and pesticides.

1dirty81.  Onions
2.  Avocados
3.  Sweet corn
4.  Pineapple
5.  Mangos
6.  Sweet potatoes
7.  Asparagus
8.  Kiwi
9.  Cabbage
10.  Eggplant
11.  Cantaloupe
12.  Watermelon

I guess the thicker the skin, the easier it is to eat the actual fruit or vegetable without coming in contact with the chemicals. Just something else to think about when you are doing this week’s grocery shopping!


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