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Updated Dirty Dozen & Clean 15: When To Buy Organic

Clean 15 Dirty Dozen When To Buy Organic

People often ask me if I always buy everything organic. I’ll be the first to tell you that health coaches definitely aren’t always perfect.

While I try my best to do mostly organic, it’s just about impossible to only eat foods labeled organic. Plus, when it comes to produce, it’s not always necessary.

What really matters is how the food was grown. Some smaller farms use all organic practices but haven’t gone through the full organic certification process yet because it can be expensive for a small business. Get to know your local farms and stands and the farmers’ market and ask about the farm’s practices.

You may have heard of the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15, but you might not know that the lists are updated each year.

When shopping at traditional grocery stores, I use the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists to choose what produce I’ll buy organic.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment. They research what’s in our tap water, the safety of our cosmetics, genetically modified organisms (GMO / GE), and the amounts of pesticides in and on our food, among other things.

The EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™ (aka Dirty Dozen and Clean 15) is updated each year and ranks pesticide contamination on 48 popular fruits and vegetables. The guide is based on results of more than 35,200 samples tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration.

The top 15 foods with the least pesticides are called the Clean 15, while the 12 foods with the most pesticides are called the Dirty Dozen. These lists are fantastic to take with you on your shopping trips to know when to buy organic and when it’s ok to buy conventional.

And lucky for us, avocados are at the top of the clean list!

The Dirty Dozen (2019)

Buy these organic whenever possible – Updated 2019

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale
  4. Nectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Peaches
  8. Cherries
  9. Pears
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Celery
  12. Potatoes
    +EWG’s Dirty Dozen Plus:
  13. Hot Peppers +

The Clean 15 (2019)

These are ok to buy conventional (not organic) – Updated 2019

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

* Per the EWG, a small amount of sweet corn, papaya and summer squash sold in the United States is produced from Genetically Engineered (GE) seed stock. Buy organic varieties of these crops if you want to avoid Genetically Engineered produce. I personally buy these organic.

You can read and download the full EWG report and lists here. Here are the highlights of the key findings:

2019 Dirty Dozen & Clean 15 Key Findings Summary

  • Avocados and sweet corn were the cleanest. Less than 1 percent of samples showed any detectable pesticides.
  • More than 70 percent of Clean Fifteen fruit and vegetable samples had no pesticide residues.
  • With the exception of cabbage, all other produce on the Clean Fifteen tested positive for less than four pesticides.
  • Multiple pesticide residues are extremely rare on Clean Fifteen vegetables. Only 6 percent of Clean Fifteen fruit and vegetable samples had two or more pesticides.

If you read the full EWG report of all the foods you’ll notice that a few common foods like bananas and carrots fall somewhere in the middle. I typically buy organic for these types of foods. If something seems abnormally high in price, I might just substitute it with something that’s in season and a lower price; for instance, fresh organic blueberries will be very expensive in November, whereas fresh organic apples will be a better price because they’re a fall food. Always just do the best you can when it comes to the quality of your food; I’m a firm believer that fresh produce is always better than no produce.

Keep in mind, washing produce doesn’t necessarily get rid of all pesticides and chemicals as it grows into the entire plant, but it can reduce your risk and exposure so be sure to always wash everything thoroughly. High costs are also a reason that I love frozen fruits and veggies–they end to be a better price and keep for months in the refrigerator. I almost always have frozen organic blueberries from Costco in my freezer for smoothies and other treats.

I suggest keeping these lists on your phone or printing them off to take to the store with you. I have them saved in a note on the Notes app on my iPhone for quick and easy access.

Happy Shopping!

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  1. Marcie Desmond

    July 15th, 2016 at 1:27 pm

    Great article Elizabeth. Question about grapes – I have been assuming that since grapes are on the dirty dozen, I should strive to only drink organic wine. Is that true or is there anything in the process of making wine that would make that unnecessary?

  2. Elizabeth Rider

    July 15th, 2016 at 5:36 pm

    Such a great question! SO much goes into the winemaking process and I’m not an expert, but, yes, in general I think it’s better to choose wine that is made from organic grapes. Organic (and biodynamic) wines are becoming more and more available. Here is a great article that discusses it more: http://blog.foodnetwork.com/healthyeats/2015/03/11/is-organic-wine-better-for-you/
    -Elizabeth

  3. Marcie Desmond

    July 15th, 2016 at 6:40 pm

    Thank you, and appreciate the helpful article!

  4. Diana

    February 5th, 2018 at 6:34 pm

    The EWG also puts out a free app with both sets of lists! It’s called “Dirty Dozen”!

  5. vikky

    October 3rd, 2018 at 3:03 pm

    I’m so happy I just found your post. As we live on a tropic Island it’s hard work for us//not that easy to get No-GMO and pesticide-free veggies. So finding your list is very precious for us, . thank you so much for this. Just we have some questions….still.
    Which one list belong “Purple Cabbage” in? The same for red onion? Looking forwards for your reaction. Thanks

  6. vikky

    October 3rd, 2018 at 3:08 pm

    I’m so happy I just found your post. As we live on a tropic Island it’s hard work for us//not that easy to get No-GMO and pesticide-free veggies and fruits. So finding your list is very precious for us. . Thank you so much for this info. Just we have some questions….still.
    Which one list belong “Purple Cabbage” in? The same for red onion? Looking forwards for your reaction. Thanks

  7. Liz Ferguson

    November 16th, 2018 at 6:50 pm

    Hi Elizabeth,

    I am hosting an online show titled “Wellness your Way – Take charge of your health to increase your energy, lose weight and feel great!” Your work fits so well with the theme of my show. Would you be interested in being a speaker? if so, can we talk briefly so I can give you more details?

    Thanks, Liz

  8. Elizabeth Rider

    November 17th, 2018 at 4:54 pm

    Hi Liz! Please send all requests through the contact form. You can find it in the menu of this website. Thanks!

  9. Rich

    December 6th, 2018 at 5:32 pm

    Hello. Did you know that you wouldn’t have to have 13 items in your dirty “dozen” if you didn’t list grapes twice. Dozen 12 not 13!! A simple glance at what you just listed would have allowed you to keep it a dozen.

  10. Cammie Noel

    January 4th, 2019 at 10:38 pm

    What about bio sludge the effect on non organic produce ? I can’t seem to find any info on that

  11. Elke

    January 31st, 2019 at 7:52 pm

    Hello Elizabeth

    Any idea why broccoli is considered clean? Bananas and avocados make sense, pesticide can’t penetrate thick peels. But how did broccoli make the clean list and do you recommend buying organic?

  12. Karen

    March 6th, 2019 at 1:56 pm

    Your blog and recipes look so interesting! Is there a way that you could support the ability to print out an article or a recipe in a direct and simple concise way? I did find one print button on the chicken bone broth but that still would only print out in a very broken pattern with much unneeded material. Thank you.

  13. Sur

    March 21st, 2019 at 3:03 am

    Noticed that sweet bell peppers are not on the clean nor dirty list? Were they not often on the dirty list?

  14. Elizabeth Rider

    March 23rd, 2019 at 7:49 pm

    Hi Sur, I think they used to be, but it changes each year. You can head over to the EWG report (linked above in the post) to see where they stand now. ~E

  15. Jodi Goldstein

    April 2nd, 2019 at 7:54 pm

    Thank you. Although my husband and I raised two kids with Healthy nutrition in the 80s we both ended up with cancer. Now in our 60s planning meals is like a chemistry lesson! We both struggle with gout so we need low purines I have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis so I have to be careful with cruciferous vegetables and raw at that!! Then there are night-shade’s. I’ve had arthritis and gout since I was 15 and now my husband , who is a musician , seems to be developing it in his hands. Can you recommend a cookbook or a site I could go to that would cover all these issues? I do use Sally Fallon’s ,Nourishing Traditions along with Healing with Whole Foods and the New Yiddish cookbook. Great books all, thank you for your time and energy, Jodi G

  16. Danielle

    April 21st, 2019 at 10:30 am

    When these foods are tested, do they just test the outside or the entire fruit and veggie? Is there an article that explains their methodology and results?

  17. Jenna

    August 15th, 2019 at 4:51 pm

    What about Brussel sprouts? Clean or go organic?

  18. Janet Rheinheimer

    August 20th, 2019 at 2:48 am

    Wow…. I had not heard of the dirty dozen & the clean 15 until tonight at a nutrition class. Thank you EWG for providing us with a tested list of healthy & not so healthy foods.

  19. Felicia

    September 8th, 2019 at 1:17 am

    How was broccoli on the clean list? Is this really correct?

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