The "Dirty Dozen" List Doesn't Make Us Healthier.
It's that time of year again, with the release of the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” list. EWG publishes this annual list of fruits and vegetables with supposedly “high” levels of pesticide residue and recommends that consumers buy organic versions of these foods.
While the Dirty Dozen list has its own issues with how to interpret safe or unsafe pesticide residue levels, which we’ll discuss in a future blog, I’d like to address the serious consequences that this type of scare technique has on consumers; in particular, those who can’t afford or who don’t have access to organic fruits and vegetables.
One 2015 study indicated that participants with lower incomes stated they wanted to eat more apples, but they heard that apples had pesticides and were avoiding them. Study participants specifically cited the “Dirty Dozen” list for stoking their fears. The vast majority (87%) of American’s don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables to begin with—by scaring people into avoiding conventionally grown produce because of “high” pesticide levels (again, I’ll get into that in a later blog), the Dirty Dozen likely only accomplishes one thing—to get Americans (particularly low income Americans) to eat even fewer fruits and vegetables than before.
All major medical organizations, including the American Medical Association, American Cancer Society, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and the American Society of Clinical Nutrition all agree that families need to eat more fruits and vegetables, not less. Multiple studies highlight the fact that there is no significant difference between organic and conventionally grown produce, despite the fact that 61% of shoppers in one survey stated that they felt that the media “encouraged them to purchase organic foods.”
All fruits and vegetables, whether organic or conventionally grown, should be handled appropriately before you eat them. The good news is that washing fruits and vegetables before cutting into them removes any lingering residues from both organic and conventional produce. Check out these tips from Washington State University Extension.