Should I Be Worried About the Dirty Dozen?

On one hand, yes. Getting enough fruits and vegetables in our diet is one of the biggest concerns for Americans and Canadians. On the other hand, potential pesticide residue on fruits and vegetables is not as much of a health concern.

The Environmental Working Group released its annual report of what it calls the Dirty Dozen this week. The list ranks fruits and vegetables by the amount of pesticide residue detected. Pesticide on food? It sounds like something to worry about, but experts advise looking at the facts, such as the very small amount of pesticide found.

“Foods on the Dirty Dozen list pose no risks to consumers due to the extremely low levels of pesticides actually detected on those foods,” said Dr. Carl Winter, a Best Food Facts expert who was quoted in the Washington Post.

EWG advises consumers to only buy organic types of produces that it lists on the Dirty Dozen. Their advice, however, has had serious unintended consequences. A study by the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago found that confusion about the list has caused shoppers to buy less of all types of fruits and vegetables.

One possible reason is because organic produce often costs more. As Dr. Ruth MacDonald has shared with Best Food Facts, “There is a widely held thought that conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables are loaded with pesticide and herbicide (chemical) residue. This is simply not supported by facts. The FDA and USDA routinely monitor the food supply for chemical residues and post results on their websites.”

Best Food Facts dietitians agree wholeheartedly with this from EWG: “Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is essential no matter how they’re grown.” The advice from dietitians is to wash all fruits and veggies under running tap water, then eat up – two to three cups of each per day.

Originally published March 10, 2017

Harvest time: local farmers sell organic produce at the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market” by University of Michigan School of Natural Resources & Environment is licensed under CC BY.