As much as I love supporting organic agriculture, my budget and busy life don’t allow me to buy organic all the time. Sometimes organic prices are simply out of reach (red peppers for $7 per pound?!) or I’m in a hurry and need to pick groceries up at the nearby supermarket which doesn’t have a very good organic selection. It’s reality folks, and I bet it’s true for many of you too.
The Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15
The Environmental Working Group’s Shoppers Guide to Pesticides in Produce is one of the most valuable resources I have found for figuring out how to make the best choices when I’m in a bind. The Dirty Dozen is a list of the fruits and vegetables most likely to be contaminated with pesticides linked to nervous system toxicity, cancer and hormone disruption. The Clean 15 lists the produce most likely to be free of those nasty pesticides – and therefore safer to buy conventional instead of organic.
Note: Get the most updated version of the guide here!
The guide is updated every year. Here are a few highlights from the 2013 guide:
- Most contaminated fruits: apples, strawberries, grapes, peaches and imported nectarines.
- Most contaminated vegetables: celery, spinach, sweet bell peppers, cucumbers, potatoes, cherry tomatoes and hot peppers.
- The average potato had much higher total weight of pesticides than any other food crop.
- Summer squash and leafy greens were not on the Dirty Dozen but have a special mention due to contamination with highly toxic organophosphates and banned organochlorine pesticides.
- Genetically modified plants, or GMOs, are not often found in the produce section of grocery stores but the GMO item most likely to be found is zucchini.
My biggest concern? Many of the most popular kids foods (apples, strawberries, potatoes, cucumber) are on the Dirty Dozen list. Keeping my children’s diet clean is my biggest priority so I do my best to buy those foods organic.
Addressing the Naysayers
You’ve probably heard some of the stories that organic isn’t important and that pesticides are not a problem. The EWG does a good job of addressing some of those concerns in its FAQs section. Trade group lobbyists put a lot of false and misleading information out there to try to discredit the organic movement – don’t believe them!
Donate to EWG if you can!
Big shoutout to the Environmental Working Group for creating this amazing list every year! To support their efforts, I made a donation today! Please consider donating a little something if you can!
Do you use the Dirty Dozen to guide your produce purchases? What foods do you most often buy organic?