What Is The Deal With The Dirty Dozen?

What Is The Deal With The Dirty Dozen?

About 75% of non-organic produce sold in the United States contains some residues of potentially harmful pesticides. The 2023 list of Dirty Dozen foods have the highest traces of pesticides, when compared to other produce items. Even though blueberries provide anti-inflammatory properties and green beans provide lots of fiber, they still joined the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG’s) Dirty Dozen list.

What Is The Dirty Dozen List?

Given what is known about pesticides, any exposure is problematic. New findings are particularly concerning for young children, as they are vulnerable to the negative effects of pesticide exposure. The Shopper’s Guide represents the EWG’s analysis of the latest fruit and vegetable testing data from the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The data includes 46,569 samples of 46 fruits and vegetables. 

In 2022, strawberries and spinach held the top two spots on the Dirty Dozen list, followed by three greens, including kale, collards, and mustard. Peaches, nectarines, pears, apples, grapes, bell and hot peppers, and cherries were next. Blueberries and green beans rounded out the list in the 11th and 12th spots. Scientists noted a total of 210 pesticides in those 12 foods, with the greens containing the highest number of different pesticides. 

What Tests Determine The Dirty Dozen?

The USDA peels or scrubs and washes produce samples prior to testing, whereas the FDA only removes dirt before taking samples. Even after these steps, the tests revealed traces of 251 different pesticides. Pesticides are not intended for human consumption because they are intended to harm living organisms. They are inherently toxic to humans and can increase the risk of hormone dysfunction, cancer, and may harm the brain and nervous system

It is public knowledge that the consumption of fruits and vegetables is vital to a healthy diet and optimal health. If you are concerned about your exposure to pesticides via diet, pay close attention to the Dirty Dozen list that the EWG releases every year. For 2023, the Dirty Dozen list is as follows:

  • Strawberries
  • Spinach
  • Kale, Collard Greens, & Mustard Greens
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Nectarines
  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Bell & Hot Peppers
  • Cherries
  • Blueberries
  • Green Beans

What Is The Clean 15 List?

Just as there is a dirty list, so too is there a clean list. Concerned consumers can choose conventionally grown fruits and vegetables from the EWG’s Clean 15 list. This list details crops that had the lowest traces of pesticides. In fact, about 65% of the foods on the list had no detectable levels of pesticides after testing. 

The reigning champion of the 2023 Clean 15 list was the mighty avocado. Sweet corn took second place, with pineapple, onions, papaya, frozen sweet peas, asparagus, honeydew melon, kiwi, cabbage, mangoes, sweet potatoes, watermelon, and carrots making up the rest of the list. Foods without traces of pesticides are especially important during pregnancy and childhood. Developing children require a combination of nutrients that have not been tainted by pesticides or other contaminants.

The Academy of American Pediatrics noted that exposure to pesticides in early childhood may increase the risk of learning problems, attention, and cancer. Exposure using pregnancy may increase the risk of birth defects or low birth rate. 

Switch To Organic Sources

You don’t want to give up on many fruits and vegetables just because they have higher levels of pesticides. Many of the fruits and vegetables on the Dirty Dozen list exhibit impressive health properties that are essential to a balanced diet. Instead of avoiding them, consider buying organic versions of those produce items. Organic does not insinuate that they have more nutrients; rather, it means that they have little to no pesticide residue. 

Studies have shown that people who switch to an organic diet have reduced levels of pesticides in their urine. If organic is not available or it is too expensive, consider peeling or washing the produce items thoroughly. Don’t use detergents or other advertised fruit and vegetable rinses. Rinsing with water will help reduce pesticide levels. Always rinse before peeling the fruit or vegetable and use a clean vegetable brush to scrub firm produce items like apples or melons. Finally, dry the produce with a clean paper towel to reduce bacteria that may still be present after rinsing.

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