The Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) found that in 48 types of produce, 70 percent of the samples were contaminated with pesticide residues.  According to Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit whose primary goal is to protect human health and the environment, it was found that no matter how much the produce was washed or peeled the pesticides persisted on the fruit or vegetable.  Now, just because pesticide residue is detectible, it does not mean it is at an unsafe level, it just means it is detected in the produce. Pesticides are an essential component to our produce to prevent viruses and diseases, but it can be concerning not to be aware of how the ingestion of pesticides can affect us in the long run.

The USDA encourages consumers to purchase organic for produce with the highest amount of detected pesticides. If you are concerned about pesticides in your produce, follow these tips from EWG to recognize what foods are considered the “dirty dozen” vs the “clean fifteen.”  The “dirty dozen” refers to foods that were identified to have the most pesticide residue. The USDA encourages consumers to purchase these foods organically grown when possible. If purchasing organic is not an option, then purchase the “clean fifteen.” The “clean fifteen” are foods that are unlikely to contain pesticide residue.  

The dirty dozen should be purchased organically grown when possible to avoid ingestion of excess pesticide residue, they include; Strawberries, Spinach, Nectarines, Apples, Peaches, Celery, Grapes, Pears, Cherries, Tomatoes, Sweet bell peppers, and Potatoes.

The “clean fifteen” are less likely to contain pesticide residue and do not have to be purchased organically grown, they include: Sweet Corn, Avocados, Pineapples, Cabbage, Onions, frozen Sweet Peas, Papayas, Asparagus, Mangos, Eggplant, Honeydew Melon, Kiwi, Cantaloupe, Cauliflower, and Grapefruit.

Next time you are asking yourself whether or not you should purchase organic; use this list to identify the “dirty dozen” vs ‘”clean fifteen” to decide. For more information, visit  

Jennifer Seleem is a registered dietitian/nutritionist with the Institute for Weight Loss at Hackensack Meridian Health Raritan Bay Medical Center-Old Bridge. The Institute provides weight loss surgery and support for individuals seeking weight loss and have been unable to lose weight through conventional dieting, exercise or weight loss medication. To attend a free seminar, which occurs three times a month, or to make an appointment with Jennifer for nutrition counseling, call 855-TIME-4-ME.

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