If you try to buy organic when it counts to be gentle on your budget, you’re probably familiar with the Dirty Dozen produce list published by the EWG (Environmental Working Group), the same organization that puts out the Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database that we talked about last week. The Dirty Dozen is the list of the 12 fruits and vegetables that will bring the most pesticides to your table compared to all the others.
On the other end of the list lies the Clean 15, where you’ll find produce with the lowest levels of chemical residue to affect your body.
EWG has just released a new 2010 update to the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists. You can download a printable “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides” (that includes the complete list of the Clean 15 too) to take with you to the store. EWG also posted a 3-minute video of Dr. Andrew Weil, a natural health expert, speaking about how to use the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen guide practically to buy organic produce.
UPDATE: There are only two changes, but here’s the new 2011 Dirty Dozen produce list!
Some of his main points include:
- Buy organic OR reduce consumption OR avoid conventional versions of the dirty dozen, if your budget doesn’t allow organic versions of the produce.
- Shift from eating foods on the dirty dozen to clean 15, and you will have a measurable drop in pesticide levels.
- “If I can’t get organic versions [of the Dirty Dozen], I’m not going to eat them.” (Dr. Andrew Weil)
The 2010 Dirty Dozen
- Bell Peppers
- Grapes (Imported)
Here’s a great printable pocket guide for the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15.
What Are the Changes?
When the EWG updated these pesticide lists last year for 2009, I was very curious about what changes had been made since 2008. I did a comparison last year, and you can see an early Monday Mission called Memorize the Dirty Dozen Produce List to help you compare last year’s list to the new version. I also discuss some of the ways I use the Dirty Dozen list at the store to make organic produce decisions.
Off the List
Lettuce, Carrots and Pears were on the 2009 list and have been booted from the 2010 Dirty Dozen.
New This Year
Blueberries, Potatoes, and Spinach stepped in to take their place as produce that contributes to 90% of our chemical load. Interestingly, both potatoes and spinach were on the 2008 list but got cut for last year.
I could have sworn blueberries used to be on the Clean 15, so I’m concerned about that jump!
In my estimation, lettuce, carrots and pears will still have a scarlet “X” on them in the grocery store, because they must be “close enough”, and that’s kind of how I’ve treated potatoes and spinach this year after they slid from last year’s updated Dirty Dozen.
The 2010 Clean Fifteen
- Sweet Corn
- Sweet Peas
- Sweet Potato
- Honeydew Melon
Do remember to wash even the melons, even though they’re on the clean 15. I have read other sources that say cantaloupes, for example, can be very heavily sprayed. Our bodies are generally safe because of the very thick rind on the melon, but you want to make sure you scrub the outside very well before slicing it and rolling it around on the cutting board that will soon be home to your cut fruit.
Does Washing Help Reduce the Pesticides?
Washing helps, but the dirty dozen and clean fifteen lists take washing and peeling into account. There are still internal chemicals floating around all these produce items. (If you want to feel better about the washing you can do, check out my comparison of 8 different types of produce wash.)
Here’s what I don’t understand: the 2010 Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 explanation still says:
EWG analysts have developed the Guide based on data from nearly
96,000 tests for pesticide residues in produce conducted between
2000 and 2008 and collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture
and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Is there no new data? How has the list been updated?
In any case, both the new and old lists can direct you how to spend your product budget when it comes to buying organic produce. I just bought organic pears yesterday, because they were only 30 cents more than conventional and both were on sale. Even though they’re off the 2010 pesticide guide, I still feel pretty good about that decision for my family.
We’ll talk more about pesticides and way to avoid them, both by paying attention to EWG’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen and by gardening organically, in two weeks when Laura at Heavenly Homemakers hosts the Spring Cleaning: Get the Junk Out! carnival about pesticides.
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