Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Dirty Dozen

What do I always buy organic?

All animal products (dairy, meat, eggs, etc.), anything containing a potential GMO crop (most rampantly corn and soy), and at least the top half of the list of contaminated produce compiled by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

EWG is a non-profit organization that uses the "power of public information to protect public health and the environment." Their organizational goals are:
  1. To protect the most vulnerable segments of the human population -- children, babies, and infants in the womb -- from health problems attributed to a wide variety of toxic contaminants.
  2. To replace federal policies, including government subsidies that damage the environment and natural resources, with policies that invest in conservation and sustainable development.
I love how EWG does it: "Our research brings to light unsettling facts that you have a right to know. It shames and shakes up polluters and their lobbyists. It rattles politicians and shapes policy. It persuades bureaucracies to rethink science and strengthen regulation. It provides practical information you can use to protect your family and community."

Zowie! You go, EWG.

I am so grateful for this organization. I have greatly benefited from their Skin Deep Cosmetics Database (reviewed here by Meredith), which has empowered me with safety information about the products we use on our bodies.

I also highly recommend taking a stroll around EWG's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce, which provides a list of 45 common vegetables and fruits, from the most contaminated to the least. These guys have analyzed more than 60,700 samples taken over the last decade by the USDA and FDA, nearly all of which were washed or peeled first (which indicates to me that, in many cases, the chemicals are present in the very cells of the food). Check out their methodology and very informative FAQs.

Here are the foods you should definitely buy organic:

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Sweet bell peppers
  4. Peaches
  5. Strawberries
  6. Nectarines - imported
  7. Grapes
  8. Spinach
  9. Lettuce
  10. Cucumbers
  11. Blueberries - domestic
  12. Potatoes
Though not found near the top of the list, green beans and kale/greens may contain toxic insecticide residues of special concern, so buy organic there too. The "Clean 15" contain the lowest pesticide residues. If budget is tight, you can skip organic here and feel pretty safe:

  1. Onions
  2. Sweet corn (though I always buy corn organic because most U.S. corn is GM)
  3. Pineapples
  4. Avocado
  5. Cabbage
  6. Sweet peas
  7. Asparagus
  8. Mangoes
  9. Eggplant
  10. Kiwi
  11. Cantaloupe - domestic
  12. Sweet potatoes
  13. Grapefruit
  14. Watermelon
  15. Mushrooms
Keep these lists somewhere handy for easy reference!

By the way, EWG was a big proponent of California's recently defeated Prop 37 (similar measures are currently in the limelight in WA, VT, and CT). If you're looking for a noble cause to donate to, EWG would be a great choice!


  1. Wow! What an awesome organization! Thanks for letting us know!

  2. I love EWG. As good as the FDA's intentions may be...or may have been... well...

    Isn't it interesting that regular potatoes are on the dirty dozen, but sweet potatoes are on the clean fifteen? I guess they just attract different pests.

    I tend to buy everything organic these days, but EWG's list has always given me peace of mind when I don't have the option, or when I can't do so within my budget. I know which produce I can compromise on more peacefully.

  3. We buy basically all organic as well, but this site does offer a lot of peace of mind. It's funny you posted about this the day you did, I had just been trying to remember what the site was so I could refer a family member to it :) Thanks for being clairvoyant!

  4. Good to know! I'd seen that dirty dozen list before, but didn't know where it came from.