What is the dirty dozen?
Eating healthy is often assumed to be synonymous with eating organic fruits and vegetables. However, since organic fruits and vegetables can be expensive, some people find it best to focus their purchases of organic fruits and vegetables to the “dirty dozen.” This article will explain what the dirty dozen is, and why it is so important to follow this list for those trying to maintain their optimum daily nutrition.
For those trying to eat healthily, the dirty dozen is not just a movie from the 1960s. The dirty dozen is a list of foods so contaminated by pesticides that organic, pesticide-free options are dramatically better options than non-organic options. The current dirty dozen includes the following fruits and vegetables:
- sweet bell peppers
- hot peppers (i.e., jalapeños)
The Environmental Working Group (“EWG”) is a non-profit environmental organization that focuses on the effects of chemicals in food on consumers. EWG creates its list of the twelve foods that should be organic purchases based on information from the US Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Data Program. Based on the USDA’s list of foods with high levels of chemical contaminants, the EWG has determined that the 12 fruits and vegetables listed here are safer when grown organically than when grown with modern pesticides.
Some have been critical of the EWG dirty dozen list, arguing that the list lacks scientific methodology and that the foods on the list are not necessarily unsafe because the foods did not contain more than the threshold of pesticides estimated to cause harm. However, this raises the following questions:
- Are the current safe consumption levels accurate?
- Even if it is safe to consume a chemical at a particular rate, what happens when it is combined with the other chemicals in our system?
- Are these levels safe for all people, or are there people with other risk factors that should have lower quantities of this chemical?
The point of these questions is that the concerns regarding pesticide-related chemical contaminants could still be valid, even when the criticisms are accepted.
There are certain foods that are safer to consume when grown organically than when grown with modern pesticides and fertilizers. This list of foods – the EDC’s “Dirty Dozen” – can be criticized based on how the numbers are used, but even the criticisms fail to address the overall concerns concerning the safety of having these pesticide-derived chemicals in our food. To learn more about the Dirty Dozen and other food-related issues, check out the cooking classes listed in our event calendar.