Healthy Living Tips  |  Posted 09.29.14

Dirty Dozen Plus

Dirty Dozen Plus

From field to field and from year to year, the amount of pesticides used on different fruit and vegetable crops can vary greatly. The worst offenders in the group have sometimes been tagged with the name, "Dirty Dozen Plus."

These are presented in descending order in terms of pesticide residue frequency (the uppermost food contains pesticide residues on the most frequent basis, and the next food down contains pesticide residues at the second highest frequency):

  • Apples
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • Celery
  • Peaches
  • Spinach
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Nectarines-imported
  • Cucumbers
  • Potatoes
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Hot peppers

The "Plus" in the "Dirty Dozen Plus" refers to a new category that the Environmental Working Group added to their report this year. It reflects two types of produce that didn't meet the traditional Dirty Dozen criteria yet were of special concern. While they may not have been among the top 12 crops in which pesticide residues were found, these conventionally grown "Plus" crops were found to commonly be contaminated with organophosphate insecticides, which are considered to be highly toxic to the nervous system. For the 2013 list, the "Plus" crops included:

  • Green beans
  • Leafy greens, such as kale and collard greens

They named another group the "Clean 15" which are the ones that were found to have the least amount of pesticide residues. These are:

  • Sweet corn
  • Onion
  • Pineapple
  • Avocado
  • Cabbage
  • Sweet peas, frozen
  • Papaya
  • Mangoes
  • Asparagus
  • Eggplant
  • Kiwifruit
  • Grapefruit
  • Cantaloupe
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Mushrooms

The amount of pesticides on the surface of produce can be reduced with washing in plain tap water. There is no need to spend extra money on wash products because tap water is just as effective. However, washing only removes pesticides on the surface, not pesticides that have seeped below the skin of the produce or that have been inbred in the produce from the beginning by genetically engineered (GMOs) seeds.

The only way to be sure that your produce is pesticide free is to buy organic (and hope that organic standards have truly been practiced on the farm), buy from a local farmer who you know and trust not to use pesticides, or grow it yourself