The Dirty Dozen

No, we're not talking about the game where you go back and forth and talk about each other.  This dirty dozen refers to a list of twelve fruits and vegetables that are tested and show relatively high percentages of pesticides.  I've gone all of my life and not had a second thought about an apple I bit into.  Things certainly changed when I found out that apples were number one on this list of produce!  These pesticides are harmful to everyone consuming them, especially little children.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers little to no explanation of the risks of pesticides.  Thanks to organizations like the Environmental Working Group for making this information available, we can evaluate and decide the actions to take when eating produce.  The best option for eating food that tests high in pesticides is to purchase organic options.  While it may cost more, now, you lessen the likeliness of not only yourself, but your children from consuming these harmful pesticides. Here are some stats from the EWG's website and a list  of the Dirty Dozen:

  • Every sample of imported nectarines and 99 percent of apple samples tested positive for at least one pesticide residue.

  • The average potato had more pesticides by weight than any other food.

  • A single grape sample contained 15 pesticides. Single samples of celery, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas and strawberries showed 13 different pesticides apiece.


  • For the third year, we have expanded the Dirty Dozen™ with a Plus category to highlight two foods that contain trace levels of highly hazardous pesticides. Leafy greens - kale and collard greens - and hot peppers do not meet traditional Dirty Dozen™ ranking criteria but were frequently contaminated with insecticides that are toxic to the human nervous system.

Notably opposite of the Dirty Dozen is the Clean Fifteen, a list of produce least likely to hold pesticide residues.  Here are some stats from the EWG's website and a list  of the Clean Fifteen:

  • Avocados were the cleanest: only 1 percent of avocado samples showed any detectable pesticides.

  • Some 89 percent of pineapples, 82 percent of kiwi, 80 percent of papayas, 88 percent of mango and 61 percent of cantaloupe had no residues.

  • No single fruit sample from the Clean Fifteen™ tested positive for more than 4 types of pesticides.

  • Detecting multiple pesticide residues is extremely rare on Clean Fifteen™ vegetables. Only 5.5 percent of Clean Fifteen samples had two or more pesticides.

Apple Cider Vinegar Produce Wash

In addition to shopping organically, thoroughly cleaning any of your food can help to rinse away not only pesticides, but other toxins, and germs from the hands of everyone who touched your food before it made it to your counter.  I use good old apple cider vinegar for a number of things, but cleaning my produce is #1.  Simply place your fruits and/or veggies in a cup of water and 1-2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar.  Let them soak in the mixture for a few minutes, at least five, then rinse them well with water.  You don't want them to sit for too long because the vinegar's flavor will seep into your food (it happened with me and a crown of broccoli).

The thought of buying organic foods may have you clutching your wallet, or purse by the strings. If you live in Metro Detroit, there are so many farmer's markets and produce markets to choose from.  There is the Eastern Market, Westborn Market, Natural Food Patch (which I absolutely love!), Joe's Randazzo's, and Joe's Produce: Gourmet Market.  However, stores like Trader Joes, Whole Foods, and even more common grocers like Kroger and Meijer offer an organic selection.  Also, I found out about a service called Door to Door Organics, at VegFest, that helps you to bypass the produce section altogether, and have 100% organic produce delivered to your door! Delivery is free, and they also have meat/fish, dairy, baked goods, deli, beverages, and pantry items for sale.  You can get your food from the store, or shop online in the comfort of your home, the choice is up to you!

I hope that this post has shed a light on the foods that you and your family intake.  The knowledge is there, and it's up to us to inform ourselves.  For more information on the effects of pesticides, genetically engineered crops, and a shopping guide to help you avoid pesticides, I urge you to visit the Environmental Working Group's website.