Why I Do Not Recommend Clean Fifteen|Dirty Dozen Lists

I'd like to begin by sharing the Merriam-Webster definition of food, which just so happens to be my favourite.

Food is something that nourishes, sustains or supplies.

Anything we ingest that does not perform any or all of these tasks cannot, in my opinion, be justifiably regarded as food. We seem to have created a world in which the line between food and enticingly packaged - and marketed - food-like substances has been so blurred that we now unwittingly consume toxic substances daily.

It is all too easy to get confused by mixed messages in the media. You may have placed all your trust in a system which ought to give us the facts so that we can make informed choices. You may not feel ready to look deeper into the consequences of our collective quest for "convenient" and cheaper food-like substances.

Please know that this is not a judgement of anyone consuming produce sprayed with pesticides.

I understand. I have been where you are. We all do the best we can.

The premise of the Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen lists appears to be based on the assumption that the use of smaller amounts of pesticides is somehow safer. I respectfully disagree.

This review explains that the term "low dose" is itself a misnomer since the potency or efficacy of individual chemicals studied was not taken into account. There is substantial evidence in the scientific literature linking the use of endocrine disruptor chemicals in pesticides to wide-ranging detrimental effects on health. They have additive and synergistic effects and very little is known about how these chemicals act in combination. Such substances penetrate deep into produce (thick-skinned or not) and cannot be washed - or peeled - off.

Money often comes up in conversations such as these. We each have a limit above which we cannot go when it comes to expense of any kind. With so much to do and buy these days, it can be hard to prioritise. Remember that each time you buy a food-like substance, you vote for the kind of food you would like to see more of.

Consider making the switch from that which will deplete you to that which will nourish and sustain you. You can do so by either:

  • Signing up to an organic veg box scheme. There are quite a few to choose from now and they tend to operate on a contract-free basis. This means that you can opt in or out from one week to the next or as required.


  • Growing your own produce. With options ranging from balcony and container gardening to your very own fruit and vegetable plot, this is possible wherever you live. This infographic explains the basics beautifully. There is also an interactive version that can be customised with the climate where you live, etc., if you prefer.

If you would like to know more about pesticides and their effects, Guy Watson (organic farmer and founder of Riverford) has created a minute-long video and written a series of posts on the subject. You can find them here.

Chi Feasey