The Dirty Dozen

Editor's picture


Kim Barnouin is the author of Skinny Bitch: Ultimate Everyday Cookbook, one of Natural Solutions’ top cookbooks of 2010.

To buy, or not to buy, organic. Just another one of life’s conundrums. You have a hard enough time finding socks to match, now you have to concern yourself with which product goods are best purchased with the shiny organic sticker? I know, you need a hug.

Well, I am going to make it really easy for you. Are you familiar with the Dirty Dozen? It’s the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) high-profile list of the fruits and veggies that are the most toxic when grown “conventionally” (non-organically). To give you an idea of just how high the risk is, I have also included a score below each. The score indicates how many samples of each good on a scale of one to one hundred, have been found to be pumped with pesticides. The higher the score, the uglier its chances. No ifs, ands, or buts: these are the ones you need to buy organic.

And after you’ve got your organic produce, try some of these recipes from Skinny Bitch: Ultimate Everyday Cookbook:
Apple-Cinnamon Granola
Lentil Seitan Sloppy Joes
Pistachio and Cardamom Cookies

PEACHES: This plump, delicious fruit is sprayed on a weekly basis, from March until harvest, with an assortment of pesticides and fungicides. It is considered the worst on the Dirty Dozen list, according to the EWG. Pesticide Rating: 100

APPLES: Talk about taking a bite out of crime. Around 40 pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides are approved for use on apples. Pesticide Rating: 93

BELL PEPPERS (Red and Green): Growers add their own concoction of toxic spices from among 50 approved chemicals and insecticides, typically sprayed two to six times in the pepper crops during their growth cycle. Pesticide Score: 83

CELERY: The FDA suspects that celery is the most likely candidate for pesticide residue, due to its ability to absorb a number of toxins through the soil and groundwater. And if the FDA suspects it, then you know it’s dirty. Pesticide Score: 82

NECTARINES: Ouch. Nectarine trees take a beating for several months with various pesticides, fungicides, and petroleum-based horticulture oils. Pesticide Rating: 81

STRAWBERRIES: Ms. Shortcake would not be a happy camper. More than 65 different pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides are registered for use on these babies. Pesticide Rating: 80

CHERRIES: Let’s skip the cherry on top. Cherries are naturally attractive to insects and pests, and susceptible to viruses and fungal diseases. Yummy!Pesticide Rating: 73

KALE: Newer to the Dirty Dozen list, kale has been found to have ten types of pesticide residue, post-rinse. Yikes. Pesticide Score: 69

LETTUCE: Leafy greens are considered to be contaminated with the most potent pesticides used on food—50 of them to be exact. Pesticide Score: 67

GRAPES (imported): The USDA mandates that all grapes imported from Chile be fumigated with methyl bromide when they arrive at the US ports. What a welcome! Pesticide Rating: 66

The Skinny: Methyl Bromide
Methyl Bromide is classified as a Category One compound. Category One is an EPA classification reserved for the most deadly substances in regulation. It is a toxic, poisonous, ozone-depleting chemical that has been known to cause neurological damage and reproductive harm.

PEARS: Pear crops bear more than 50 nasty chemicals. Pesticide Rating: 63

CARROTS: Sure they build brainpower, but more than 40 different pesticides have been detected on carrots. Pesticide Score: 63

Visit for updates or additions to the list of the Dirty Dozen.