Dirty or clean?

Posted: May 10, 2014 in Food, Health
Tags: , , , , ,

Every year the Environmental Working Group publishes their list of  foods with the most pesticide residue and those with the least.  This year, the Dirty Dozen list is really a Dirty Dozen Plus list, as hot peppers, kale and collards “merit” special notice as being contaminated with unusually bad pesticides.  If you want to try to buy organic, the Dirty Dozen Plus list is the place to start, while buying conventional works for the Clean Fifteen.

The Dirty Dozen Plus goes from highest amount of pesticides to least, while the Clean Fifteen starts with the cleanest, avocados.



  1. Patricia says:

    An interesting post for sure — but knowing someone who works in the transport industry, and who consequently travels to the major growing regions in the US, I often get the “fresh dirt” about most of the produce – from its treatment in the fields, to processing and packaging, as well travel/haul, until it reaches its final destination here in Canada, where it usually sits in highly controlled and processed environments for some time.

    Unfortunately, despite what studies and the media are trying to make us believe, there are very – and I can’t stress that enough – few “true organic” growers and producers. Large scale organics is really a misnomer. To ensure the best quality possible, one has to buy locally or grow one’s own.

    Another interesting fact to consider — besides the complete insanity scope of commercial pesticide use etc. – is irrigation. Certain parts of the US face intolerable drought conditions and major water sources, like the Colorado river, have been dammed and diverted to provide the necessary means for watering. However, in doing this, altering its true course south into Mexico, this causes a “fall out effect.” People don’t realize that much of the produce that is grown in the southern states bordering Mexico – as well as much of Mexican produce – is actually irrigated with sewage water.

    Yes – this is a fact. Industry standards and safe guards? Only when official inspections are scheduled.

    The truly sad aspect about all of this mega-agriculture is the absolute waste. We overproduce for what we truly need, depleting our natural resources, and yet the actual “true demand” for all of it is never studied. We mass produce and waste tremendously, and still are “fooled” into believing that more is better and all labels are truthful.

    I apologize about the long reply – but your post fascinated me – and I just wanted to share a few things that I have come to learn about the agri-business in the last few years.

    • No problem with the long reply, Patricia. Your response was interesting as well as depressing. Your point about buying locally or growing your own is a good one. That’s a great place to begin, although the former can be quite pricey and often there aren’t markets or produce available out-of-season. And when buying local, you can’t always go by the organic label. Many small growers don’t want to or can’t pay the fee for being “certified organic.” Talk to them and ask about spraying.

      The EWG list is useful in several ways. If you’re going to spend money to buy local and organic or grow your own, it’s a helpful way to avoid the largest number of pesticides. Buy/grow the food that’s mostly likely to have a large number of pesticides and you’ll cut down the number you ingest. I try not to buy from Mexico and Chile, as produce from those countries is often full of pesticides. Of course, when pesticides are being used almost everywhere, they’ll be found even in places that don’t add their own. Rain and irrigation water are going to carry pesticides into the water table. Minimizing exposure is the best we can hope to do. But I think anything that cuts down on exposure is worth the effort.

      As for government “help”, if you read any of Joel Salatin’s books, you’ll realize, if you didn’t before, that the system is tilted towards large agribusiness and seems to live to put barriers in front of and ridiculous regulations on those trying to grow and produce in the right ways. No surprise there!

      I hate after all that to say it’s time for breakfast, but I’m hungry. 🙂 Thanks again for your thoughts and knowledge, Patricia.


      • Patricia says:

        Well Janet I hope my reply didn’t spoil your breakfast.
        Indeed, between your post, my reply, your reply back – well there is a ton of info here that makes one almost want to give up food all at once – as if it was possible.

        I agree with you about the lists – they are useful – most people have no idea about how food is grown and produced and how much we are ingesting through transference etc.

        Depressing and sad indeed – but every great post like yours – can and does make a difference – in some small way. And I suppose, although it really gets me down – every small step in the right direction helps – at least that’s what I hope for – whether it’s “stupid” or not – but I believe in trying to live by my principles – even if called a fool.

        Hope you have a wonderful weekend Janet 🙂

      • Didn’t spoil my breakfast at all, Patricia. My tongue was firmly in my cheek while saying that (which isn’t easy!!) 🙂 Every small step does help and every voice that speaks up makes a difference, even if only to those in the immediate vicinity. But information spreads and grows and makes a difference.

        I love farmer’s markets and the food tastes so good. But everyone has to make decisions. So for me, knowing that asparagus is one of the cleaner foods means that we can enjoy it when it’s on sale at the store (and some stores get in small farm produce, too, during the season) and I can buy organic apples or peaches at the market.

        One of the things that makes me sad is that organic food is so expensive. I know that has to do with supply and demand as well as other factors, such as how much work it is to grow organic food. And I know that the real cost of inexpensive food includes health problems. But even knowing that, there are many, many people who simply can’t afford to buy it.

        I have a link to a book you and other readers might enjoy, but I’ll have to add that in a separate response so I don’t lose this one. Off to find it.

      • Patricia says:

        I agree with you — about all that you’ve written. It is sad when organic is out of the reach of so many – understandably too – but when I can, I buy local — but I’m a bit biased too – one of my grandfather’s had a farm – so I know what from seed to table – or straight out of the ground into the mouth – really means – and I miss it and appreciate it. So yeah, go green! When possible.


      • My grandparents had a farm, too. I remember when they gave us ground beef, Mom had to put a bit of oil in the pan because it was so lean it would stick. The first time I saw how much fat was put into ground beef at the store, I was shocked. I loved the eggs from the bantam chickens, so small and brown.

      • Patricia says:

        Nothing quite as stirring as farm fresh memories – they truly make one appreciate how much things have changed. Fresh eggs – what a delight!

      • Here it is: https://sustainabilitea.wordpress.com/2012/05/24/the-seasons-on-henrys-farma-book-review-with-musings/. Along with this, read almost anything by Joel Salatin, owner of Polyface Farms in Virginia. It’s exciting what can be done and depressing to see how the government gets in the way, often willfully, it seems, of anyone doing it.

      • Patricia says:

        Great – thanks for the link —- off to check it out now!

  2. I just got the whole family to eat huge kale salads, so it’s to the farmer’s market we go to buy our kale. We buy as much locally grown, organic food as we can.

    • Kale is one of the “super foods”, so good for you. A good farmer’s market is such a blessing. In Cleveland, we had many and one that was open year-round. Of course in the winter there wasn’t the same variety, but there were people growing potatoes and root vegetables as well as hydroponic lettuce and things. My favorite apple producer had the facilities to store apples for months, so I was able to eat great apples and make sauce almost year-round. Here in Naperville, the market is open June-October, so it won’t be too long now.


  3. vbholmes says:

    Lucky for me, I like everything on the Clean List–and unfortunately, I like almost everything on the Dirty List. Thanks for the alert, Janet–will try to be more selective in the future.

    • Yeah, I like them all, too, vb. I’m good on hot peppers because I don’t care about them but the rest on the bad list are tough. At least it helps make better decisions.

  4. M-R says:

    I have NO IDEA if anyone provides this here. I shall have to do some research, damn you ! [grin]
    Presumably this is to do with the differing kinds of pesticide ?

    • I think so and I imagine that some foods, because of thinner skins and the like, absorb pesticides more easily. Bananas for instance really don’t need to be organic as you take the skin off. Don’t know if anyone does this in Oz. But I find it very helpful.

  5. patriciaddrury says:

    Reblogged this on Healing Myself and commented:
    Clean please!

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