Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Coming Clean About Dirty Fruit.

I'm sure many of you have seen the Dirty Dozen list that has been reported on in the media over the last few days.  Basically, they are warning us that these supposedly healthy fruits and vegetables are laden with evil deadly pesticides.  It's not that they want you to not eat fruits and vegetables, it's that they don't want you to endanger yourself by eating one of the Dirty Dozen.

Before I go forward, here is the Dirty Dozen:
1. Apples
2. Celery
3. Strawberries
4. Peaches
5. Spinach
6. Imported Nectarines
7. Imported Grapes
8. Sweet Bell Peppers
9. Potatoes
10. Domestic Blueberries
11. Lettuce
12. Kale/Collard Greens

For this Dirty Dozen list, they want you to switch to organic if you simply have to have any of these items.  The people that put out this list is the Environmental Working Group.  This is a group I consider very similar to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, as both groups are non-expert activists that present their agenda with zero context.  For instance, Michael Jacobson of the CSPI put out an article in the Huffington Post about caramel coloring for cola where he derides the ingredient for causing cancer.  As I said, these groups tend to report what sounds horrific in the absence of all context. Why? Well, if he wrote that article and said, 'but you'll need to drink 18,000 20oz bottles of cola before you have enough coloring to potentially cause cancer', you would not freak out and give his organization money.

I find it interesting that the EWG advocates for organic without finishing their story.  The rest of the story is the context they are so sorely missing, so I'm here to help.  I am using the calculator on safefruitsandveggies.com to show how much of each item an adult male will have to consume in a day in order to do themselves harm via the pesticides.  For those of you concerned with bias, I'd like to point out that both the EWG and Safe Fruits and Veggies use the USDA's own residue data.  So here for your reading pleasure is the full context version of the Dirty Dozen.

Dirty Dozen?
1. Apples                        - 571 servings/day
2. Celery                         - 133,951 servings/day
3. Strawberries                - 2,640 servings/day
4. Peaches                       - 318 servings/day
5. Spinach                        - 4,487 servings/day
6. Imported Nectarines    - 439 servings/day
7. Imported Grapes          - No figure given. Amt for cherries is 1,171 servings/day
8. Sweet Bell Peppers      - 845 servings/day
9. Potatoes                        - 12,626 servings/day
10. Domestic Blueberries - 306 servings/day
11. Lettuce                        - 15,227 servings/day
12. Kale/Collard Greens   - 3,265 servings/day

It's also very important to note that these figure are based on the highest residues reported by the USDA, so this is a worst case scenario.  Still scared?  Remember to keep these articles you read by groups like the EWG or CSPI in context.  Are they giving you numbers and context?  Also beware of correlation studies and terms like 'linked'.  So eat anything you want from this list.  It is virtually impossible to eat enough for the residues to make you sick.


  1. thank you, sam. I'll keep these figures filed away in my food fight file in evernote. Excellent info.

  2. Thanks for the well worded and informative "retaliation". I will use this info in my communications.
    PEI Potato Board, Canada

  3. You're quite welcome madame/sir...

  4. I wrote a post you might care to read.

  5. What about children, specifically infants, who are in a high-growth stage? Just wondering.

  6. On apples, for instance, kids will have to eat more than 149 servings of apples a day to get ill. I have a young niece & nephew. When they eat, they typically pick at their food and eat half at most. The older one(the nephew)has only recently started to clear his plate. It would be virtually impossible for either of them to eat enough servings of fruit/veg to get ill from residues. Keep in mind that those figures are calculated using the highest amounts of residues detected by the USDA.

  7. Good Job. I just reposted this info on Facebook, linking to your blog. Lots of people are just plain confused about their food. Thanks!


Put your comment here, kind sir/madame. Try to cite sources when stating facts and refrain from off topic comments or hateful/nasty rhetoric.