The Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15 – what to buy and what to grow
It sounds like a movie (in fact, it was in 1967) but in more recent times the Dirty Dozen refers to a list of conventionally grown fruit and vegetables containing the most pesticide residue. The much-debated shoppers’ guide is released annually in America by EWG (the Environmental Working Group). The 2018 list of fruit and vegetables to be wary of is:
The Dirty Dozen - 2018
Strawberries, Spinach, Nectarines, Apples, Grapes, Peaches, Cherries, Pears, Tomatoes, Celery, Potatoes, Capsicum and Chillies.
On the flipside, EWG also releases the Clean Fifteen, a list of produce containing the least amount of pesticides. They are:
The Clean Fifteen - 2018
Avocado, Sweetcorn, Pineapple, Cabbage, Onion, Sweet peas (frozen), Papayas, Asparagus, Mangoes, Eggplants, Honeydew melon, Kiwifruit, Rockmelon, Cauliflower and Broccoli.
Why are the lists debated? Because they are American-specific. Nutritionists and organisations in Australia are quick to note that practices and testing in Australia differ. Melbourne-based Cultivating Wellness nutritionist Stacey Curcio looked at local research and surmised the Australian version of the Dirty Dozen is more likely to include apples, cabbage, strawberries, capsicum, tomatoes, celery, lettuce, mushrooms, nectarines, grapes, cucumber and oranges. Friends of the Earth (FoE) Melbourne continually lobby for organic food and pesticide free farming practices. FoE’s 2012 report The Dose Makes Poison? listed the most pesticide exposed foods in Australia at the time as apples, pears, wheat, strawberries and grapes.
One thing the pros do agree on, is the possible harm caused by exposure to toxic pesticides. FoE’s 2012 report reported a variety of health problems linked with pesticides on Australian produce. These include problems with human endocrine function (the collection of glands producing hormones that regulate the activity of cells or organs), and learning and behavioural problems. The development of Parkinson’s disease has also been linked to long-term pesticide exposure.
It all sounds quite ominous. So how do you protect you and your family?
Whether you’re shopping at the local supermarket, grocer, or farmers’ market, opt for certified organic produce. Organic means it was grown using farming systems that don’t rely on pesticides, genetic modification or synthetic fertiliser. Organic fruit and veg can sometimes err on the more expensive side but you can’t put a price on your health.
Do your research
It is important to remember that not all fruit and veg is grown locally. Some of it is imported and just because a trader claims their produce is certified organic, doesn’t mean it is. According to the Australian Organic Market Report 2017, the number of people checking labels for a certification logo is increasing. The Australian Government currently accredits the following certifying organisations: AUS-QUAL, Australian Certified Organics (ACO), Bio-Dynamic Research Institute (BDRI), National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia (NASAA) Certified Organic (NCO), Organic Food Chain (OFC), and Safe food Production Queensland (SFPQ). Get informed and take control of what goes into your body.
Grow your own
The best way to control what goes into your soil and ultimately on your fruit and veg is to grow and nurture them yourself. Especially those you’re particularly worried about. Make like Gardening Australia’s Costa Georgiadis and get your hands dirty. Costa is passionate about organic growing and there’s plenty of information out there for beginners. A good vegetable is not always pretty but it is free of the nasty stuff.
Befriend a grower
Certified organic growers are a passionate bunch. Organic gardening gurus love to share their tips. You’ll find them at local farmers markets. Set some time aside for informative banter – they love to chat. Like Stephan Oulianoff at Adelaide Central Market’s Central Organic, House of Organics Or Of you give him the chance, the 84-year-old will talk for donkeys about his beloved growers and their certified organic ways. If you’re lucky, you’ll meet them when they turn up at the stall to deliver produce.
Set an example
If your mates, peers, and children hear you discussing what is on your plate and in your glass, awareness (and demand) for organic produce will grow. The stats indicate the number of certified organic operators in Australia is on the rise. We’re on the right track but there’s a long way to go. Let’s keep those figures rising. Your innards need it.
Support the good guys
Fast food used to be a no-go but you can now get organic grub on the run. Oliver’s Real Food is an organic fast food chain certified with ACO (Australian Certified Organic). Think buckets of green beans and oven-baked sweet potato strips. Find the outlets on major highways in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. There are also plans for an Oliver’s organic roadside pitstop in Coonalpyn, South Australia.