The Dirty Dozen and Clean fifteen for 2016

Posted by on April 19, 2016

Every Year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases a list of what is known as ‘The Dirty Dozen’ and The Clean Fifteen’. The EWG is an American nonprofit environmental organization that specializes in the research of toxic chemicals, agricultural subsidies and corporate accountability in North America.

Since 2004 the EWG has ranked pesticide contamination on 48 popular fruits and vegetables every year and published them in the “EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce”. The guide is based on the results of more than 35,000 samples tested by the U. S Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The Dirty Dozen is a list of the 12 fruits and vegetables that, after conventional farming have been found to contain the highest amounts of pesticide residues. The Clean Fifteen on the other hand, is the list of those that have the lowest amounts of pesticides. The aim of the lists are to help families make the best choices in order to help reduce their exposure to toxic pesticides.

Nearly three-fourths of the 6,953 produce samples tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2014 contained pesticide residues – a surprising finding in the face of soaring consumer demand for food without synthetic chemicals.

This year strawberries, apples and nectarines topped the dirty dozen list and whilst each year the chart toppers change slightly with different fruit and veg moving up and down by and large the 12 stay pretty much they same. You can see the full list below.

Key findings of the dirty dozen 2016:

  • More than 98 percent of strawberry samples, peaches, nectarines, and apples tested positive for at least one pesticide residue.
  • The average potato had more pesticides by weight than any other produce.
  • A single grape sample and a sweet bell pepper sample contained 15 pesticides.
  • Single samples of strawberries showed 17 different pesticides.

Key findings of the clean fifteen 2016:

  • Avocados were the cleanest: only 1 percent of avocado samples showed any detectable pesticides.
  •  89 percent of pineapples, 81 percent of papayas, 78 percent of mangoes, 73 percent of kiwi and 62 percent of cantaloupes had no residues.
  • No fruit sample from the Clean Fifteen tested positive for more than 4 types of pesticides.

EWG’s Dirty Dozen and Clean fifteen 2016

Download your free printable of the  The Dirty Dozen & Clean15 for 2016 put in your handbag or on the fridge for reference.

In an ideal world we would all eat organic food all the time. For many people however finances, logistics or various other factors mean this is not always possible. This list is a great tool to help you decide which fruit and vegetables to prioritize and buy organic if you are able to purchase some but not all.

It’s important to note that the EWG is an American association and many of the pesticides which are permitted on crops in the U.S and Canada are not permitted for use in the Europe. This does not mean however that fruit and veg there do not also contain certain chemicals. In my search for the EU equivalent of the EWG I came across the Pesticide Action Network (PAN). PAN UK produces a large variety of online resources, including journals, leaflets, posters and videos, that cover the many issues surrounding pesticide use. Their most recent comprehensive study on fruit and vegetables that I could find was in 2013 when they published a study called “Pesticides on a Plate” which can be found here.

The report shows that as much as 46% of the food consumed in the UK contains residues of one or more pesticides. This figure has increased every year and has almost doubled since 2003 when it was just 25%.

The report also shows that residues found in several fruit categories exceeded Government limits. A number of the most widely used are highly toxic and have been linked with developmental defects, cancers and other disorders.

Whilst the PAN UK did not test for the same chemicals or all the same produce as the EWG and there were slight differences in their findings there were also some overlaps where fruits and vegetables contained the highest and least amount of pesticides.

Strawberries, grapes, apples, peaches, cucumbers and tomatoes were all on the list of produce that contained the highest number of pesticides in both the PAN study and EWG report. Whilst kiwis, melon, onions, corn and eggplant (aubergine) were all on both lists for containing the least number of pesticides.

More info on the PAN UK report can be found here. 

If you are still unsure and cannot buy all organic fruit and vegetables but wish to buy some to help reduce your pesticide consumption it is best to buy those that do not have an outer protective skin on them such as grapes, apples and berries organically grown. The dirty dozen are often found to be (although not always) the fruit and vegetables with the thinnest or edible skin such as berries, cucumbers, spinach, tomatoes and celery. The thin skin often means they are more susceptible to absorb a higher number of  chemicals.

It’s important to point out that although certain chemicals have been found in high concentrations in certain foods, they still make up only a small amount in relation to the food itself. Nonetheless, it’s worth remembering that all pesticides are by definition poisons. More research is needed to understand the cumulative effects of exposure to them over extended periods of time as well as the ‘cocktail’ effect of various combinations of chemicals. Given the evidence, and until more is known it seems like a good idea to reduce and avoid our exposure to them wherever possible.

Interested in getting my top tips for reducing your exposure to pesticides? Click here to download my free printable.

If you wish to find out more about the Environmental Working group you can visit their website by clicking here



Free Printable on tips to reduce your exposure to pesticides


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