The Clean 15 and the Dirty Dozen is a list produced by the Environmental Working Group in America each year. It highlights the contaminated and lesser contaminated fruits and vegetables found in our food chain. However one must take into consideration that their farming practices are different from Europe and they allow substances to be used which are not allowed in Europe.

This year, the report found that almost 70 percent of non-organic samples tested positive for at least one pesticide. (In many cases, the numbers were much higher.) A single strawberry sample harboured 22 different pesticide and pesticide breakdown residues.

A “Clean 15” list is also included in the report, identifying the non-organic produce least likely to be contaminated with pesticide levels. I advise choosing and growing organic as often as possible, but if you’re on a budget or your selection is limited, these lists help you focus your attention on avoiding the most contaminated fruits and vegetables.

Pesticide applications to crops result in varying levels of residues remaining in, or on, our food. The application of pesticides (insecticides, herbicides, fungicides etc) does not only take place while the crop is growing, but can also be applied as a seed treatment, or after harvest to assist with transportation, storage or the cosmetic look of a particular item.

The residues detected on a particular food item will depend on which pesticides have been used and how persistent they are (how long they take to decompose). Food items may contain the residues of just one pesticide, while in others the residues of multiple pesticides will be detectable.

Of course, the EWG’s report is specifically concerned with vegetables and fruits in the US. Some of this is certainly transferrable worldwide or at least indicative of what some of the most problematic fruits and vegetables might be. The only similar reports for fruits and vegetables within the UK I could find was from 2015. For more information have a look at the Pesticide Action Network UK website

EWG’s Dirty Dozen

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Nectarines
  4. Apples
  5. Peaches
  6. Pears
  7. Cherries
  8. Grapes
  9. Celery
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Sweet Bell Peppers
  12. Potatoes

EWG’s Clean 15 

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet Corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Cabbage
  5. Onions
  6. Frozen Peas
  7. Papayas
  8. Asparagus
  9. Mangos
  10. Aubergines
  11. Honeydew melon
  12. Kiwi
  13. Cantaloupe melon
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Broccoli

My recommendation – always eat lots of vegetables and fruit in moderation but when it comes to the dirty dozen, try to buy organic where possible and failing that, wash thoroughly.

For more information on the Dirty Dozen I suggest you take a look at Dr Axe’s website – packed full of relevant and up-to-date health information.