Dirty 12 – vegetables and fruits most contaminated with pesticides

Dirty (dirty) 12 is a list of the most contaminated vegetables and fruits, published every year by the American organization EEC. It raises a sensation, but it turns out that the ranking is not prepared fairly and we should be sceptical.

What’s the ticket?

According to research, as much as 43 per cents of all vegetables and fruits contain a detectable level of pesticides – substances used in agriculture to combat pests, crop diseases and weeds.

Especially pregnant women and young children should take care of them because for them pesticides pose the greatest threat. Fortunately, there are several effective home remedies for getting rid of plant protection product residues.

Dirty twelve vegetables and fruits most contaminated with pesticides

Every year, the EEC (Environmental Working Group) publishes a list of the 12 most contaminated vegetables and fruits. The ranking – called the dirty or filthy twelve – is created based on research of thousands of vegetable and fruit samples made by the US Department of Agriculture and the FDA (Food and Drug Administration).

In 2019, they were on the list of vegetables and fruits most contaminated with pesticides

  • Strawberries
  • Spinach
  • Nectarines
  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Peaches
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Tomatoes
  • Celery
  • Potatoes
  • Peppers

Next to the ‘dirty twelve’ Environmental Working Group is also preparing ‘clean fifteen’, which is a list of fruits and vegetables least contaminated with pesticides. These are avocados, sweet corn, pineapple, frozen sugar peas, onions, papaya, eggplants, asparagus, kiwi, cabbage, cauliflower, cantaloupe melon, broccoli, mushrooms, honey melon.

Dirty 12 – the list is not entirely reliable

You should be sceptical of the ‘Dirty 12’ list. Because of a few reasons. First, the Environmental Working Group (EEC) is not a research group. The EEC only interprets the data previously collected by the US U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Secondly, the list is not prepared fairly. The degree of contamination is not taken into account, only its fact. There is also no differentiation in the degree of toxicity of the pesticides used.

Thirdly, the samples tested are collected in America. American vegetables and fruits grow in a different climate, on different soil than ours. Other technologies and plant protection products are also used in our part of the world.

The EEC recommends that vegetables and fruit belonging to dirty 12 should be bought in organic food stores. This suggests that organic vegetables and fruits are free from pesticides, which is not true. Organic farming also uses pesticides, only other than conventional farming.

Although there are fewer pesticide residues in organic products than in conventional farming products, this is a small difference.

How much “chemistry” is in vegetables and fruits?

Consumers often fear the presence of plant protection products in food. Meanwhile, the results of national monitoring indicate that in half of the samples no residues of plant protection products are detected, and the remaining majority meet legal standards (MRLs, maximum residue levels).