by Leah Cachia
Most of us know that choosing organic is good for our health and better for the environment; however the cost often prevents many of us from even considering it. This is where the ‘The Dirty Dozen’ and ‘The Clean Fifteen’ lists can come in handy.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is an American environmental organisation that specialises in research and advocacy in the areas of toxic chemicals, agricultural subsidies, public lands, and corporate accountability. EWG is a non-profit organisation whose mission is “to use the power of public information to protect public health and the environment”.
Each year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases these lists to help you decide which fruits and vegetables to purchase based on pesticide residue detected. Those found with the least pesticide residue are categorised as ‘clean’ and those with the most as ‘dirty’. The EWG is an independent United States health and environmental research organisation based on the United States farming practices, however much of the findings are applicable in Australia.
Using the EWG’s lists as guides when shopping will help us to reduce our exposure to pesticides as much as possible. By choosing more from the ‘Clean Fifteen’ list and if the budget allows, buying organic alternatives from the ‘Dirty Dozen’ list you can potentially reduce your pesticide exposure. However eating conventionally grown produce (non-organic) is still better than not eating fruits and vegetables at all. It is recommended to eat foods from the ‘Dirty Dozen’ list over processed products that are high in unhealthy fats, sugars and additives. A fruit and vegetable rich diet provides health benefits that outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure.
The Dirty Dozen 2016
- Cherry Tomatoes
The Clean Fifteen 2016
- Sweet Corn
- Sweet Peas Frozen
- Honeydew Melon
If you are able to purchase organic products, not only do you reduce your exposure to pesticides, but you support environmentally-friendly farming practices that protect workers, reduce soil erosion and care for water quality and wildlife.
Look for ‘certified organic’ on the label as well as the logo of the certification association as the word ‘organic’ in Australia is often misused. It is an expensive and long process for farmers to reach “certified organic” standards. The strict guidelines that need to be followed include prohibition of artificial fertilisers, pesticides and genetically modified components. Certified organic eggs and meat includes humane treatment of animals that are raised on organic food and prohibits the use of hormones and antibiotics.
However not everyone has access to certified organic food or can afford it so please take a good look at the ‘Dirty Dozen’ and the ‘Clean Fifteen’ lists above to help make the healthiest choices from conventionally grown produce. Remember though, the ‘Dirty Dozen’ produce is still cleaner than processed and unhealthy foods!