The Dirty Dozen

No, not that dirty dozen. This one refers to the top 12 most toxic produce in the marketplace. That isn’t to say the fruit and vegetables are themselves toxic, but rather that they were tested as having chemical residue on or in them, often protected from washing by a thin layer of wax added to make the product look shiny.

Vegetable Market

Every year, the EWG puts out a new list. They outline what the latest testing has shown and where you are best served by putting money towards organics. There are also the Clean 15, but that is a topic for another post. For now, let’s explore this year’s dirty dozen.


This list ranks by worst to least offensive. Consider that the nest time you bite into that shiny apple. All told, 99% of apples tested positive for pesticides and chemical contamination. That lovely wax that makes them look so nice means that washing them isn’t doing much. Go organic or at least give them a quick dip in hot water before you wash them to remove that wax.


98% of peaches tested had pesticide residue. One sample had 13 different chemical toxins! It kind of makes you think twice before reaching for the peach cobbler.


Falling close behind it’s cousin, these tested at 97% of the samples being contaminated. Again, one test found 13 unique toxins on an individual sample.


This 13 number comes up a lot. Guess who also had testing show that many on them? Worst is that it is hard to properly clean strawberries since their softness makes it difficult to scrub them properly.


One sample had 15 different toxins! At one time, there was a distinction between the imported grapes and domestic, but apparently the toxicity levels between them are no longer different enough to take note of.


Those stalks often get the soil they are grown in between them. All of the nasty stuff they pour on for dealing with pests gets channeled down those stalks as well. Is it really any surprise they tested high on the list?


Soft leaves with a limited growing period. Sounds like the perfect recipe to incentivize farmers to use toxic pest remedies.

Sweet Bell Peppers

This is our other one that had a sample test to show 15 different toxins present. Mmmm. It’s really too bad too. They seem to wax these ones as well. On the up side, having it rank so far below apples implies that the total levels are at least lower.


Another waxed vegetable (yes I realize they are technically a fruit) on the list. Noticing that pattern at all? Wax is starting to seem to be the enemy of clean eating.

Cherry Tomatoes

How many is that now with 13 toxins identified on a sample? It’s kind of sad that I am losing track.

Imported Snap Peas

Yep, another 13. This time, though, there is a distinction between imported and domestic. There were sharply different levels between the two, leading for the imported to be on the bad list and not the domestic version.


If you measure it by the amount of toxin per weight of the produce, potatoes would be at the top of the list. No amount of washing is going to get rid of the toxins in a potato, unfortunately. It’s inside of them just as often as not.

Two More

Two other forms of produce didn’t make the list due to the limited amount of toxins on them, but because of just how dangerous those toxins are, they found their way onto a Dirty Dozen Plus list. One is dark leafy greens (Kale and Collards), the other is hot peppers. If you eat these in any large amount, you want to avoid the conventionally grown ones. The toxins that are used on them are powerful insecticides that have a very ugly way of affecting the human nervous system.

So that’s the dirty dozen from this year. The list does change a little from year to year, so it is probably a good idea to recognize that this year’s may not have the same layout as next years. The list doesn’t measure GMO produce either, so if you are worried about those, you might want to avoid Papaya. There’s also a chance that your sweet corn, zucchini and yellow squash may be GMO.

I think I will spend next week pointing out the more positive side of the list with the Clean 15. Look for it next Monday.

What are your thoughts?

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