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2021 Dirty Dozen

Recently, the Environmental Working Group (otherwise known as the EWG), has released their updated list of the 12 “dirtiest” fruits and vegetables. The nonprofit tests randomized samples of produce from across the country in order to determine which products contain elevated levels of pesticides. These are the foods that you should eat organic.

The 2021 Dirty Dozen:

  • Strawberries

  • Spinach

  • Kale / Collard and Mustard Greens

  • Nectarines

  • Apples

  • Grapes

  • Cherries

  • Peaches

  • Pears

  • Bell and Hot Peppers*

  • Celery

  • Tomatoes

*This is the first time in 17 years that peppers have appeared on the Dirty Dozen list.

Highlights from the EWG’s report:

  • While strawberries have long been on top of the Dirty Dozen, Kale/Collard and Mustard Greens were only added in 2020. Over 90 different kinds of pesticides were found on leafy greens. One pesticide, in particular, DCPA, was most commonly found on leafy greens. DCPA has been classified as a possible human carcinogen, based on an increased incidence of thyroid and liver tumors in rats exposed.

  • Bell and hot peppers are new additions to the Dirty Dozen. USDA data demonstrated that 115 pesticides were found on peppers- the highest amount of any produce. Most concerning is evidence of organophosphate insecticides on peppers. The EWG reports that such insecticides can impact the cognitive development of children and have been banned in many countries.

  • While not in the Dirty Dozen, citrus fruits were also spotlighted in a special report by the EWG. Oranges, mandarins, lemons, grapefruit, and especially tangerines contained concerning amounts of a fungicide (imazalil). This fungicide has been linked to cancer and hormonal irregularities. The average concentration of imazalil in the citrus tested by the EWG was 20 times more than the recommended limit to protect children from cancer.

Importance of buying organic:

While we recommend buying all organic products, we also understand that this is not financially feasible for everyone. The Dirty Dozen is a great reference for which fruits and vegetables to prioritize buying organic.

Organic foods are held to much stricter standards than normal produce. A USDA Organic seal indicates that the product hasn’t been genetically engineered or been exposed to GMOs. Most synthetic substances are banned in organic farming. Organic farming is also more sustainable than traditional farming due to the lack of toxins put in the soil and tt has also been shown that organic foods have higher levels of nutrients than non-organic.

It is also essential to not underestimate the potential risks of toxic pesticides on our produce. Pesticides accumulate in the colon, decreasing our beneficial bacteria, increasing inflammation and permeability. This can then lead to a slow spread throughout the body. Cancer, Alzheimer's Disease, ADHD, and birth defects have been linked to pesticides.

While buying organic products is one part of the equation, in order to optimize your health and nutrition, the Johnson Center recommends nutrigenomic testing. This testing can also look at your detoxification pathways to make sure that you are able to remove the organophosphates and other toxins.

Through DNA testing, we can precisely identify the patterns and imbalances of your unique metabolism and use nutrients to suppress the expression of disease, illness, and other unhealthy patterns. If you're interested in genomic testing, click here to learn more! Or contact our office at


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