The Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen


Now that it’s spring and heading into the hot days of summer, local fruits and veggies are plentiful. Fresh produce is full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber and relatively low in calories (depending on the portion and how its prepared of course!). But do you ever wonder if fruits and veggies are heavily sprayed with pesticides?

Research indicates pesticides are linked with brain and nervous system toxicity, cancer, hormone disruption, and skin, eye and lung irritation. Is there a way to know which of your produce is higher or lower in pesticide residue? Yes!  The organization Environmental Working Group (EWG) studies pesticide residue on 48 different fruits and veggies and comes up with annual lists of The Dirty Dozen and The Clean Fifteen.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to pediatricians when consulting with parents about reducing pesticide exposures in their children’s diets.

The Dirty Dozen are the fruits or veggies highest in pesticide residue and these are the foods you want to buy organic whenever possible. The guide is based on results of more than 35,200 samples of produce tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration. The Dirty Dozen for 2017:  strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, peaches, pears, cherries, grapes, celery, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers and potatoes.

While its best to buy organic versions of the dirty dozen, this isn’t always an option. So what can you do? Rinsing produce with cold water can wash off a good bit of pesticide residue and its recommended to keep the water running for at least 60 seconds. Using a vegetable brush or rubbing produce while washing also helps get rid of pesticides. If you are still worried, you can do a natural soak. While I have not seen validated research on this method, it will not hurt the produce. Fill a large bowl or clean sink with 4 parts water and 1 part white or apple cider vinegar and soak the fruit or veggies for 15 to 20 minutes and then rinse well. One teaspoon salt per 1 cup water can also be used for soaking produce. There are commercial washes available but water with vinegar or salt are easy and inexpensive. Peeling fruits and veggies also decreases pesticide residue, but you can lose valuable fiber, vitamins and minerals when edible skins are discarded.

Local growers who use pesticides usually use less and many grow organic, so ask at the farmer’s markets and local produce stands. Remember it is easy to grow your own veggies and fruits too. Start small with tomatoes and squash or plant a blueberry bush or fig tree.

The Clean Fifteen are the fruits and veggies that are least likely to contain pesticide residue:  sweet corn, avocados, pineapple, cabbage, onion, frozen sweet peas, papayas, asparagus, mangos, eggplant, honeydew melon, kiwi, cantaloupe, cauliflower, grapefruit.

To read the report and find lots of other information go to:

For more information on adopting healthier lifestyle changes, contact Kitty Finklea, lifestyle coach, registered dietitian and personal trainer at McLeod Health and Fitness Center, (843) 777-3000.