The Dirty Dozen — and Clean Fifteen


written and illustrated by The Glow Girls


When one begins to travel down a road of living more mindfully, we naturally start to ask more questions. We become curious about many aspects of our lives, such as where our food is sourced, how it is grown, how it is taken care of and who the hands were that brought it to our tables.

It is inevitable that some of you would have come across the ‘Clean 15 and Dirty dozen list’, or perhaps heard of it.

This concept can also apply to the products we use in our home and on our skin, which we will share more about in future posts as well.

Without seeming sensational, we thought that it would be useful to share this information. We hear people say regularly ‘ it’s so expensive to eat organic’ which is true presently. This list is useful, as it allows you to know which foods are more advisable to buy organic, while others can be bought in your regular vegetable section, that way alleviating some of the 'organic expenses' for now. We also hope that with more of us calling for transparency in our food supply that this will also lead to a greater demand for organic produce and sustainable farming methods, which will in turn bring down the 'elite status' of organic food, making it the standard and so - a ripple effect.

The list below is based on the research found on farming and pesticides, how this list applies directly to South African produce is not yet definitive as there is little to no information available on South African farming methods. However, we have used the EWG’s Environmental working group’s ( based in the USA ) frequently updated list as a guideline for our consumer choices. 


What exactly is ‘The Dirty Dozen and Clean 15’ and why was it created  ?

The Dirty dozen and Clean 15, as mentioned was developed by the EWG, and since it's launch in 1993, EWG has strived for consumer rights 'to live healthier lives in a healthy environment' 

Although we do not have our own list pertaining to South African Fruits and Vegetables, what is important to know is that pesticides are used worldwide and this is really what the DD and Clean 15 aims to highlight. Certain fruit and vegetables are more vulnerable and therefore need more 'treatment' compared to others, some produce is less vulnerable to the need for pesticides, as well as merely being better choices when buying non-organic due to their thicker skins or outer layer that is peeled away before eating.

" Worldwide it is estimated that approximately 1.8 billion people engage in agriculture and most use pesticides to protect the food and commercial products that they produce" 

The Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 was created by analysing different conventionally grown produce, the EWG created this list to " ...provide consumers with a useful summary of these tests. We created the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists based on notable differences between pesticide residues on different produce."

Essentially this looks at what pesticides are found on the produce before it gets to the consumer and just how much of these pesticides we'd be consuming. 


What are pesticides? 

Pesticides are defined as “chemical substances used to prevent, destroy, repel or mitigate any pest ranging from insects (i.e., insecticides), rodents (i.e., rodenticides) and weeds (herbicides) to microorganisms (i.e., algicides, fungicides or bactericides)


How can we use this list within our lifestyles?

Pesticides are a reality, and if you are trying to monitor your exposure to environmental toxins, this list could be beneficial in knowing which fruits and vegetables are best bought organic and which are fine to buy non-organic. We want to encourage you to not live in fear knowing this information rather to be aware of the options available to you. We are by no means saying that you must cut out certain fruit and vegetables entirely as they are an essential part of our diets. 

A good rule of thumb is to shop your organic vegetables from the Dirty dozen section as these are the fruit and vegetables that showed the highest pesticide residue, ranking from 1 - 12 on the list. The clean 15 are produce that are safer options to buy non-organic as they are generally those fruit and vegetables we peel or those that have a hard outer skin, with the odd exception. 

If this information interests you, you can look at the full list here . The EWG release an updated list each year so you can keep track of any changes, however these lists have shown to remain pretty consistent. 

Lastly, should anyone know if there is a list that pertains to South African produce and pesticide exposure, feel free to educate us further


Please find a gift from us below. 




We have created a handy little printable for you as a reminder and guideline for buying your fruit and veggies as toxin-free as possible.

Simply click download below, print at home and stick it on your fridge.


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Marize AlbertynComment