The Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen | Pesticides in Your Produce

The lab results are out on one of our Aussie favourites - avo toast!

What are the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen?

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) test fruit and veggies for their pesticide concentration each year (1).

They release a list of 12 fruit and veggies with the highest concentrations, known as the "Dirty Dozen". And the produce with the lowest concentration of pesticides is ranked on the "Clean Fifteen".

(All tests are conducted after washing and/or peeling, just as you would before eating.)

So what's the issue with pesticides?

These chemical compounds used on our fruits and veggies have been linked to a number of health issues as possible carcinogens. 

If you watch my Stories, you'll be familiar with my mantra:

You won't notice any impact on your health on the first, second or tenth time you do or eat something. You may only begin to notice the effects  5, 10 or 20 years down the line.

If you're trying to eat healthier without breaking the bank, these two lists are a great way to help you save money.

Focus on upgrading to organic versions of the "Dirty Dozen". Simultaneously, you can save money by buying the "Clean Fifteen" from your regular grocer or supermarket section.

Of course, if you can afford to buy all your produce organically, you can reduce your exposure to pesticides even further.

Dirty Dozen

These 12 fruits and vegetables contain the highest concentration of pesticides. Some were found to contain up to 8 types of pesticides.

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale 
  4. Nectarines 
  5. Apples 
  6. Grapes 
  7. Peaches 
  8. Cherries 
  9. Pears 
  10. Tomatoes 
  11. Celery
  12. Potatoes

Clean Fifteen

These 15 fruits and vegetables are safe to buy conventionally. They had the lowest concentration of pesticides tested.

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet Corn 
  3. Pineapples 
  4. Frozen peas
  5. Onions
  6. Papayas 
  7. Eggplants 
  8. Asparagus 
  9. Kiwi 
  10. Cabbage
  11. Cauliflower
  12. Cantaloupe
  13. Broccoli
  14. Mushrooms 
  15. Honeydew melons

Can you just wash off the chemicals?

Washing your fruit and veggies before you eat will help remove some pesticides and herbicides. But there are some chemicals that you cannot wash off. These chemicals are deep in the body and cell structures of the fruit and veggies themselves. 

How can I tell if the produce is organic?

In Australia, organic produce is labelled with the "Australian Certified Organic" logo. They must meet the national export standard as well as be verified by a third-party certifier. 

Australian Certified Organic logo

Fruit and vegetables will have the "Australian Certified Organic" logo. If they don't have this logo, they likely don't meet national standards.

“There is so much unknown about the effects of the chemicals used in production and how they impact our bodies. Our health authorities do not test for the cocktail effect [the effect from the combination of multiple chemicals used in production], they test only individual chemicals.  So, there is no way of knowing the effect.”

“There are some systemic products that you cannot wash off fruit and vegetables. These chemicals get into the body and cell structures of the produce itself. For example, the pesticides used in the production of bananas. The point of an effective fungicide is that it is difficult to get off.”

- Andrew (Chairman of Australian Organics) (2)

Key Takeaway

Fresh fruit and veggies are crucial to your health. Eat organic as your budget allows, starting from the Dirty Dozen.

The Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen | Pesticides in Produce

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1. Environmental Working Group (2019). "Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce™" EWG. Sourced from:

2. Darcy, A. (2018) "Should I Switch To Buying Organic Food in Australia?" Eat Pray Workout. Sourced from: 


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