What are the dirty dozen and the clean fifteen | Food | What you can do | David Suzuki Foundation
Photo: What are the dirty dozen and the clean fifteen

What are the dirty dozen and the clean fifteen. (Credit: karimian via Flickr)

The dirty dozen and the clean 15 refer respectively to the fruits and vegetables that are the most and least contaminated by pesticide use, according to the Environmental Working Group.

Why do we care?
Pesticides are toxic by design! Different pesticides have been linked to a variety of health problems, including hormone disruption, cancer and brain toxicity.

But for most people, switching to organic produce is a gradual process. Because organic foods tend to be more expensive than their counterparts, making informed choices in the produce aisle helps minimize pesticide consumption while keeping the budget in check!

Should you avoid the dirty dozen?
Absolutely not! Fresh fruits and vegetables are always a healthier choice than processed foods. Besides, non-organic processed foods are sure to contain a slough of chemicals too! Instead, let the guide dictate your allocation of organic vs. non-organic purchases.

Why eat organic food?
All of this opens up a bigger discussion about the choice to eat organic food — and the reasons that not everyone does. Often, the decision comes down to bottom line.

Non-organic foods usually cost less money. But there are other costs — hidden costs — that have to be considered too. These include abstract factors like the cost of demanding more from the earth than it can produce and the long-term health costs associated with ingesting chemicals. Also included are tangible variables, like the government subsidization of industrial agriculture and our relative comfort (or discomfort) with foreign investment in commercial Canadian agriculture.

Sign up for Queen of Green tips by email

There are also ways to offset the increased out-of-pocket expenses incurred by prioritizing organic foods.

Committing to cooking whole foods from scratch — alongside careful meal planning, home gardening and food preservation — can largely counteract the cost of organic food purchases.

The process is gradual. Change takes time. And all of us have to work within our budgets.

Which is where the dirty dozen and the clean 15 come into play. The list is a resource to help you make the best choices for your health and for the earth, whatever your current budget or state of greenness.

The Dirty Dozen (in order of contamination)
Apples
Celery
Sweet bell peppers
Peaches
Strawberries
Nectarines
Grapes
Spinach
Lettuce
Cucumbers
Blueberries
Potatoes

The Clean 15 (in order of least contamination)
Onions
Sweet Corn
Pineapples
Avocado
Cabbage
Sweet peas
Asparagus
Mangoes
Eggplant
Kiwi
Cantaloupe
Sweet potatoes
Grapefruit
Watermelon
Mushrooms

Read more