What is the dirty dozen and clean fifteen food list? This is a list put out every year by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). EWG performs a series of tests required by the US Department of Agriculture. The results are that nearly 70% of 48 types of conventionally grown produce are polluted with pesticide residues. And, the pesticides were still present even after washing and peeling the skins.

EWG found that there are much more pesticide residues on various types of produce more so than other types. The Dirty Dozen are the top 12 produce items that have the most pesticide contamination. The Clean Fifteen are the top 15 produce items that have the least pesticide residue contamination.

Organic produce is grown with no pesticides. When organic produce is unavailable or too expensive, use the Dirty Dozen/Clean Fifteen lists to choose foods that have lower pesticide residue pollution.

Dirty Dozen List

In order of highest residues first, conventionally grown produce

Strawberries, Spinach, Nectarines, Apples, Peaches, Celery, Grapes, Pears, Cherries, Tomatoes, Sweet Bell Peppers, and Potatoes.

*Strawberries were tested to have 20 different pesticides. Spinach was found to have twice as much pesticide residue by weight than any other crop.

*Hot Peppers are on the expanded Dirty Dozen list. They have shown to be contaminated with insecticides (acephate, chlorpyrifos, and oxamyl) that are toxic to the human nervous system.

Clean Fifteen List

Conventionally grown produce

Sweet Corn, Avocados, Pineapples, Cabbage, Onions, Frozen Sweet Peas, Papayas, Asparagus, Mangoes, Eggplant, Honeydew Melon, Kiwis, Cantaloupe, Cauliflower, and Grapefruit.

*Very few pesticide residues were found on these fifteen food types

Individuals who eat organic produce eat fewer pesticides by default. An interesting study performed in 2015 by Cynthia Curl of the University of Washington found that individuals who purchase and eat organic foods have significantly lower organophosphate insecticides in their urine samples.

Read the full study here at, https://hs.boisestate.edu/blog/2015/02/09/ccurl/ and https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/1408197/

Organophosphate pesticides have been excluded from most agricultural uses and banned from household pesticides. This, of course, is encouraging, but these organophosphates are still permitted to be used on certain crops. Organophosphates have been shown to be toxic to the nervous system. Even in low doses, they can lower intelligence and have negative effects on brain development in children.

For most of us in America, our diet is the main source of organophosphates and other pesticides. When choosing organic produce instead of the conventionally grown Dirty Dozen, we can make a big difference in our health and majorly decrease the amount of pesticides we consume.

Check out the following links from EWG for more detailed information on this subject: