The Dirty Dozen and The Clean Fifteen, from the Environmental Working Group

I’ve been working on two projects that have kept me from blogging. The first project was a lecture given at the January meeting of Physicians for Ancestral Health. The second project, still on-going, developed out of a new working relationship with Dr. Tommy Wood who I met at the PAH meeting. I will be sharing more about both of these in future posts.

But today I am returning where I left off with my last post about toxins in our babies and our environment. i promised to discuss the The Dirty Dozen and The Clean Fifteen, both trademarks of the Environmental Working Group . So here it is.

The EWG developed these lists to help individuals make informed purchasing decisions  relative to organic vs non-organic vegetables and fruits. The EWG analyzed data from testing for residuals of pesticides. So if you cannot afford to purchase all organic produce, you can get the most benefit from your dollar by limiting your non-organic produce to the “clean” list and purchasing only organic from the “dirty list”.

Highlights of Dirty Dozen™ 2014

Each of these foods contained a number of different pesticide residues and showed high concentrations of pesticides relative to other produce items.

EWG’s Dirty Dozen™ list of produce includes

  1. apples,
  2. strawberries,
  3. grapes,
  4. celery,
  5. peaches,
  6. spinach,
  7. sweet bell peppers,
  8. imported nectarines,
  9. cucumbers,
  10. cherry tomatoes,
  11. imported snap peas
  12. potatoes.

“In particular:

  • Every sample of imported nectarines and 99 percent of apple samples tested positive for at least one pesticide residue.
  • The average potato had more pesticides by weight than any other food.
  • A single grape sample contained 15 pesticides. Single samples of celery, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas and strawberries showed 13 different pesticides apiece.”

 Dirty Dozen PLUS™

For the third year, EWG expanded the Dirty Dozen™ with a Plus category to highlight two foods that contain trace levels of highly hazardous pesticides. These foods do not meet traditional Dirty Dozen™ ranking criteria but were frequently contaminated with insecticides that are toxic to the human nervous system. EWG recommends that people who eat a lot of these foods buy organic instead.

  1. Leafy greens – kale and collard greens
  2. hot peppers

The Clean Fifteen™ Relatively few pesticides were detected on these foods, and tests found low total concentrations of pesticides.

EWG’s Clean Fifteen™ for 2014 – the produce least likely to hold pesticide residues – are

  1. avocados,
  2. sweet corn,
  3. pineapples,
  4. cabbage,
  5. frozen sweet peas,
  6. onions,
  7. asparagus,
  8. mangoes,
  9. papayas,
  10. kiwis,
  11. eggplant,
  12. grapefruit,
  13. cantaloupe,
  14. cauliflower
  15. sweet potatoes.

 “Notable findings:

  • Avocados were the cleanest: only 1 percent of avocado samples showed any detectable pesticides.
  • Some 89 percent of pineapples, 82 percent of kiwi, 80 percent of papayas, 88 percent of mango and 61 percent of cantaloupe had no residues.
  • No single fruit sample from the Clean Fifteen™ tested positive for more than 4 types of pesticides.
  • Detecting multiple pesticide residues is extremely rare on Clean Fifteen™ vegetables. Only 5.5 percent of Clean Fifteen samples had two or more pesticides.”

At the PAH meeting I spoke with Dr.Tommy Wood and Darryl Edwards , both from England, about food choices in Europe vs the USA.  We had this conversation while eating out and asking the waitress questions about the sources of food. They both commented that when eating in England or the European Union they are not often concerned about food quality because the use of pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics is so reasonably regulated. Most produce is considered organic or close to organic. In addition most meats are grass-fed, free of or low in exogenous hormones and antibiotics, free of excess pro-inflammatory omega six fat and contain more anti-inflammatory and beneficial omega 3 fat, similar to the fat profiles of wild game. Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) so prevalent in the US are rare in the European Union.

Food for thought and thoughts about food.

Eat clean, live clean and prosper.


2 thoughts on “The Dirty Dozen and The Clean Fifteen, from the Environmental Working Group

  1. cyndee carvalho

    Hi Dr. Bob,
    Thanks for all your homework on this, I appreciate the information. I recently heard Rachel Ray on her cooking show talking about this subject, her opinion is that if you were going to eat the skin, as in an apple, only buy organic, if you were removing the skin and couldn’t get organic, it was okay. I know from how people tell me they use systemic pesticides that eating organic is the very best way. There is however still a big divide on how we are registering organic or natural growing of crops, still a lot of work to be done. I say grow your own whenever possible, then you know what soil it is grown in and what was used to fertilize, short of that, buy as close to the farmer as you can! Cyndee

    1. Bob Hansen MD Post author

      Thanks Cyndee for your thoughtful comment. “Organic” has become, unfortunately, a designation highjacked by big AGRICULTURAL INTERESTS. Lobbyists have arranged to have the designation sometimes misleading with “cheating” allowed. A similar problem has arisen with the term “free-range chicken”. Apparently a mass producer of housed chickens can call it “free-range” if there is a small opening at the end of the warehouse that opens to a modest piece of dirt outside the building. So you must KNOW YOUR SOURCE. But overall the testing shows that most organic produce is “cleaner”. Eating local is best, especially growing your own. In the meantime supporting local by purchasing food at farmer’s markets or direct from the farm helps the movement grow AND protects your health.


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