The ‘Dirty Dozen’… Not the Movie

January 11, 2010

Yesterday I bought a produce scrub brush and produce wash (Fruit & Vegetable Wash by Environné) at Trader Joe’s. Well today I washed all the produce I bought, and I gotta tell ya, I was shocked by how dirty it was! We’re talking dirrrty. The white bristles on my new scrub brush turned brown – many times over. I don’t know why, but I figured maybe produce purchased at Trader Joe’s would be somehow cleaner than that from a standard grocery store? Clearly a foolish notion. I can’t believe I haven’t been doing this all along. I don’t even want to think about the gnarly layer of yuck I’ve been eating. Ah well, onward and upward. That is the general goal in life, right?

When I was perusing Environné’s website yesterday (, I saw mention of the ‘Dirty Dozen’. Now the only Dirty Dozen I’ve ever heard of is the movie, and not because I’ve seen it, but rather because it’s mentioned in a movie I have seen (which happens to be one of my personal favorites), Sleepless in Seattle. Apparently the Dirty Dozen is also a term that is used to refer to a group of produce, that is particularly… aaah, dirty.

The ‘Dirty Dozen’ list was created by the Environmental Working Group – a nonprofit focused on public health, made up of scientists, researchers, and policymakers. They researched 89,000 produce pesticide reports, from both the Dept. of Agriculture and the FDA, in order to determine what fruits and vegetables have the highest, and lowest, amounts of chemical residue.[1] The fruits and vegetables that made the list (not an award you want to win), each tested positive for anywhere between 47-67 pesticides per serving. Oink.

Here’s the ‘Dirty Dozen’ list, in all it’s glory (read shame):

  • apples
  • bell peppers
  • blueberries
  • celery
  • cherries
  • grapes (imported)
  • kale
  • nectarines
  • peaches
  • potatoes
  • spinach
  • strawberries
  • *runner-ups: carrots, pears, lettuce, tomatoes (used to be on the list, but we’re just removed)

Apparently these foods are the most susceptible because they have soft skin that absorbs more pesticides. The EWG advises that the best way to reduce your exposure to pesticides, is to buy the organic version of the ‘Dirty Dozen’, and to wash your produce. They say that buying the organic version reduces your pesticide exposure by up to 80%.[2]

Now fear not! It’s not all bad news. The EWG also created a second list – the ‘Clean 15’. This list is of fruits and vegetables that contain little to no pesticides. They have a thicker skin, which offers more protection against pesticide contamination.

Here’s the ‘Clean 15’ list, in all it’s glory (read glory):

  • asparagus
  • avocado
  • cabbage
  • cantaloupe
  • eggplants
  • grapefruits
  • honeydew
  • kiwis
  • mangoes
  • onions
  • pineapples
  • sweet corn
  • sweet peas
  • sweet potatoes
  • watermelons

If you visit the Environmental Working Group’s website (, you can download a copy of the Dirty 12/Clean 15 shopper’s guide, in pdf format. Here’s the exact link ( There’s even an app for the iPhone. It’s important to visit this website annually, as the list sometimes changes. 


References: [1], [2]

Image Source: Earth Mother. “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides.” Image. 28 May. 2010. 12 Jan. 2011. <>.

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