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Written for the River Current publication November 8, 2012

In the year 1967, The Dirty Dozen referred to a World War II film starring Ernest Borgnine and Donald Sutherland. 

Today, “The Dirty Dozen” now has a completely different meaning. I guess you could say it is still a war, but now it is a war-of-sorts, commonly referred to as, The Wellness Revolution.

In a recent article, I discussed the need for eating clean and fresh. As easy as that may sound; it does present itself with some difficulties, due to residual pesticides now commonly found on our fruits and vegetables. A new report issued by the President’s Cancer Panel recommends eating produce without pesticides to reduce your risk of cancer and other diseases. 

Further, research by the Environmental Working Group, has also found that eating certain types of organic produce can reduce the amount of toxins you consume on a daily basis by as much as 80 percent. Because buying organic food can be more costly, the Environmental Working Group's annual list of the dirty dozen foods is useful in helping us to prioritize what we choose to buy organic or non-organic. 

The group analyzes Department of Agriculture data about pesticide residue and ranks foods based on how much or little pesticide residue they have. This year the Dirty Dozen was expanded to include two crops -- green beans and leafy greens; meaning kale and collard greens, which are commonly contaminated with highly toxic organophosphate insecticides. 

These insecticides are toxic to the nervous system and have been largely removed from agriculture over the past decade. However, because these insecticides are not banned from use, they still show up on some food crops.

The fruits and vegetables on “The Dirty Dozen” list, when conventionally grown, tested positive for at least 47 different chemicals, with some testing positive for as many as 67. For produce on the “dirty” list, you should definitely go organic, if at all possible. In general, tree fruits, berries, and leafy greens dominate the “dirty” list. Those fruits and veggies at the top of the pesticide laden list: apples, celery and sweet bell peppers. 

Two lists have been put together, “The Dirty Dozen” and “The Clean 15,” to help consumers make the choice between organic and non-organic. Since the USDA tests produce after a typical household preparation, fruits and vegetables with thick skins that are removed before eating (melons, avocado, corn, etc.) tend to have the lowest amounts of pesticide residue. Research has found that produce on “The Clean 15” showed little to no traces of pesticides, and are safe to consume in non-organic form. 

Perhaps you will want to clip this list and keep it tucked in your purse or wallet.  (I always seem to forget when I'm at the grocery store!) 

Image result for dirty dozen food pics


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