The UK’s (2013) answer to the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen

The good things in life are worth waiting for, or so they say. But after holding my breath and pacing up and down for more than three weeks, I have learned that there is an exception to every rule. In this case, it was my tardy response from Waitrose.

It’s a while ago now, so I’ll refresh your memory: I asked about their awareness of the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen (ranking their pesticide absorption rates of popular fruit and veg). I also asked why they felt the need to shred the organic kale they sell.

First, the explanation of the kale (duly punctuated on Waitrose’s behalf). They said: “When slicing fresh produce, there may be some low level oxidisation of nutrients next to the cut surface, but the inherent properties of great nutrition does not change. We have looked at some research undertaken which has said contrary to this in the past. However, the control data has not been very good. When retaining quality and nutrients, we do see an effective cool chain as being really important and we do focus on this with all of our growers.”

I wrote back and asked them if, regardless of this view, they accepted that it would still be preferable NOT to shred it. I have never even received an acknowledgement, let alone a response, but I suspect that their blade-happy tendencies are more to do with being able to pre-weigh and bag in order to get more people through the tills at a faster rate.

To retract from my opening observation, there’s one rule which, as far as I’m concerned has NO exceptions: If it ain’t broke (or shredded), don’t fix it.

Plus, there is evidence to suggest that cold storage and refrigerated transport can damage the cell integrity (and therefore the nutritional quality) of fruit and veg. It’s an on-going debate, particularly among raw food advocates, but given that the produce – in this case kale – has already been damaged from the shredding, to then expose it to unnaturally cold conditions is adding insult to injury in my book. The stuff will still be very good for you, but why did they feel the need to do it in the first place?

You can’t tell me that food in cold storage is as healthful as the moment it was picked. And given that many major supermarkets store fruit and veg in REALLY cold conditions for up to a year, it’s not like we’re talking a short journey down the road in a refrigerated lorry.

Second, the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen (again, properly punctuated for your reading pleasure). They said: “The dirty dozen is a list compiled within a USA context. Many of the uses of pesticides which are fully permitted on their crops are not permitted in the EU. Using kale as an example, our growers use no organochlorine pesticides on them and one organophosphate on the small plants whilst they are being raised in greenhouses before they ever get planted into our fields. So if we were to assess Waitrose’s kale in the context of the dirty dozen list, its inclusion would be unfair.”

OK, I hold my hands up – I didn’t realise that those two lists were exclusive to the USA, particularly as I have seen the same two lists published in at least 1 UK magazine. But my response to this was – and again, I have never had a comeback to this – the reason why many of the fruit and veg are on the “bad” list is because they have thinner skins than others and so their absorption rate of anything surely remains the same, no matter what. Plus, we may use different chemicals here, and in some cases fewer, but they are still poisons when all is said and done.

In order to redeem myself, I trotted off to the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) ( Earlier this year, this group published a study called “Pesticides on a Plate”, FOCUSSING PURELY ON UK FRUIT AND VEG.


So cut these lists out and stick them in your handbag/manbag:


Worst fruit (the ones you should try to buy organic or avoid, worst first): citrus; pineapples; pears; apples; grapes; strawberries; peaches and nectarines; apricots


Worst veg (worst first): tomatoes; parsnips (evil little blighters anyway); cucumber; carrots; lettuce; beans in a pod; peas in a pod; sweet potatoes; courgettes and marrows; yams


Best fruit (the ones that absorb the fewest nasties, starting with the least absorbent): star fruit; plums; exotic fruit; kiwi fruit; banana; raspberries; other berries; melons


Best veg (best first): corn on the cob; leeks; aubergines; onions; ginger; chilli; potatoes; peppers; celery; spinach


Ironically, kale doesn’t get a mention! Obviously, the lists above are more detailed than the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen, but for comparison’s sake, out of the 27 fruit and veg mentioned in the DD and CF, in the PAN study, 7 were not mentioned, but of the remaining 20, only 5 did not agree with the DD and CF, which kinda proves my point about absorption being the same whichever side of the Atlantic you are.





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by George

I’m George Dryden - a slightly-off-the-wall-but-in-a-good-way journalist, blogger and almost-raw vegan. In April 2014, I graduated as a Certified Health Educator from the Hippocrates Health Institute, in Florida, USA (more about George)

16 thoughts on “The UK’s (2013) answer to the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen

  1. Josephine says:

    Thank you, I wondered if the dirty and clean lists would vary in the UK and it does. Mainly potatoes , raspberries and other berries being on the clean list surprised me. I had been buying sll berries organic. Sweet potatoes I hadn’t bought organic because they are on the U.S. list as clean but as they feature on the U.K. Dirty list as dirty I will changing some purchasing habits, very informative.

  2. Hannah says:

    Hey thank you SO much for doing this and sharing this it really is fascinating. I’m most interested in spinach as it seems to me the glaring example of where the UK and US lists differ and I wonder why. Having only seen the American list I assumed those tender leaves were super absorbent but now I’m a bit confused!
    Thanks again!

    • georgemcgina says:

      Hey Hannah. My pleasure, and thank you for your reply. It was a revealing exercise for me as well! There is so much to learn about what the food industries hide from us, and what the Government lets through in the name of profit. I don’t know if you’re read any of my most recent posts, but I have been on what is called the Health Educator course at Hippocrates Health Institute. I have learned so much about why the west has got it so wrong when it comes to food consumption and production. It’s the same course that Kris Carr did, if you her (a bright, brilliant lady who beat 22 stage 4 cancer tumours in her liver and lungs through going plant-based) Keep reading! 🙂

  3. katedh says:

    This is exactly what I have been looking for! Been digging around to see if there was a UK equivalent to the EWG dirty dozen list for ages. Thank you!

    • George Dryden says:

      Pleasure. I think it’s one of my most popular posts! We are so lucky we’re not in America with the whole GM thing – it is dire over there. If you don’t eat organic in the US, you are more than likely getting a dose of GM. And all courtesy of Monsanto – NEVER buy any of their products, including Roundup. Find out more about how evil they are by catching The World According to Monsanto on Youtube. They are literally in a mutual, back-scratching love affair with the US Government and can do whatever they want – i.e. poison everyone. 🙂 PS I will be researching the exact situation in the UK with GM, once I find the time.

  4. A.M. says:

    Hey, American in the UK here.
    I like this info. So, does this also consider the foods that are from UKs main suppliers of non organic also? I.e. my local veg shop celery from outside of the UK?
    Love buying local organic as much as possible, and like to see that the EU and UK are different to the USA.
    Let me know if there have been any changes on this info recently.
    Many thanks!

    Anne Marie

    • George Dryden says:

      Hey American in the UK – enjoying the weather?! You must be mad.
      Anyway, as far as what DEFRA told me, this applies to ALL fruit and veg allowed into the UK from elsewhere too. So I have to rely on what they are telling me, unfortunately. But I guess you have to trust at some point. As an American, you may be interested in the last three posts I have written – about Monsanto and Roundup and GMOs…just a thought. Thanks for reading!

  5. charma1ne says:

    Thanks very much for the information. I appreciate that someone has taken the time to track it down.

    I live in the far north of Scotland and my local Tesco store has decided to scrap every last item of organic fruit and vegetables on it’s shelves. In response to my email, Tesco Head office are ‘sorry’ that I can’t find what I am looking for when I place my order! Unfortunately Tesco has the monopoly up here. There is an organic supplier in Inverness (80 miles away) and they will deliver up here by courier. Goodness knows how long my veg box will sit in a courier van 🙁 but I will have to go with this since almost our entire diet is made up of fruit and veg and looking at the list you provide, we have eaten a boatload of toxins over the last 2 years.

    thanks again,

    • George Dryden says:

      I boycott Tescos because of the way they treat their suppliers. I am sure you get that the reason you have this problem is because of the clubcard, which will tell them what people are buying and not buying. Ingenius, until it comes to what people WANT but aren’t actually getting – and you can also say the same of the Nectar card and also the MyWaitrose card. Good for you that you don’t allow this to deter you. Do you have the time and/or space to grow your own? And have you ever tried growing sprouts? An indoor gardening activity? Could tell you more if you want to know. It’s two-year-old easy! And YOU’RE in control 🙂

  6. Pingback: “Grandad hands!” My skin problems and how I healed my flakey skin by going against convention! | Unchain your health and life

  7. Noa says:

    Hi there.

    This is amazing – has your list been verified by an EWG equivalent body here in the UK?

    I’m very surprised about the pineapples – from a non technical perspective I would have thought that effectively the thicker the skin of the fruit the less susceptible it is to pesticides etc. ? I guess it doesn’t work like that…

    Anyway, if your list has been verified by some sort of governmental body I would love to know!


    • George Dryden says:

      Hey Noah – yes, all the information is from the Pesticide Action Network, which researches in UK and Europe. I personally spoke to someone there. 🙂 Hope you continue to follow my blog – and thanks for the comment 🙂

  8. Cat says:

    Thank you so much for deciphering all that info from PAN for us George! I can’t believe this info isn’t more publicly known in the UK.

    If you/your readers find it useful, I made a little graphic to help remind people of the ‘true’ list of fruit/veggies to buy organic in the UK –

    Thanks again!

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