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Organic September: The Dirty Dozen and The Clean Fifteen List 2021

It’s Organic September, a month-long campaign to raise awareness of eating Organic sponsored by the Soil Association. There are many benefits to eating organic food, but if it’s not possible for you to go 100% organic yet, you can use the dirty dozen and clean 15 lists to help you make good choices and prioritise what to buy organic. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a non-profit organisation that updates the dirty dozen and clean 15 lists every year. It ranks the pesticide contamination on fruits and vegetables after they have been prepared to be eaten. This means the produce has been thoroughly washed and, when applicable, peeled. The EWG list is based on US produce samples, but the Pesticide Action Network UK creates a similar list based on UK data collected by the UK Government’s Pesticide Residue in Food (PRiF) committee.

The Dirty Dozen List 2021

The dirty dozen list collates the fruits and vegetables that have been recorded as having the highest level of pesticides by the EWG. The dirty dozen list comprises the fruit and vegetables where it’s best to buy organic to reduce the risk of pesticides for yourself and your family. To minimise the health risk, it’s best to decrease our overall pesticide use and exposure. The list below is the 2021 list compiled by the EWG using US data:


  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale, Collard & Mustard
  4. Nectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Cherries
  8. Peaches
  9. Pears
  10. Bell Peppers
  11. Celery
  12. Tomatoes


The last dirty dozen list updated using UK data was via the Pesticide Action Network UK. Their list is based on 2018 and 2019 data for multiple residues published by The Expert Committee on Pesticide Residues.  PAN lists of the ‘dirtiest’ fruit and vegetables based on UK Government data showing what percentage of samples revealed residues of more than one pesticide. They have chosen to focus on multiple residues because the UK regulatory system is only set up to assess the safety of one pesticide at a time and so misses what is often called ‘the cocktail effect’ of a multitude of pesticides. Here’s the latest UK dirty dozen list from PAN UK, which includes data collected in 2018 and 2019 by the Pesticide Residue in Food Committee:


  1. Grapefruit
  2. Clementines, Mandarins and Satsumas
  3. Strawberries
  4. Pre-packed salad
  5. Grapes
  6. Lemons
  7. Peaches and Nectarines
  8. Pears
  9. Spinach
  10. Chilli Peppers
  11. Apples
  12. Blackberries and Blueberries


Looking for some delicious recipes using the seasonal ingredients from the list but using organic produce instead? Try these recipes:


The Clean 15 List 2021

The foods with the least pesticides are known as the clean fifteen, so if you buy these produce and they aren’t organic – they are likely to have fewer pesticides than those on the dirty dozen list. The Clean Fifteen 2021 list comes from US EWG data since the PAN UK do not produce a version based on UK data.


  1. Avocados
  2. Sweetcorn
  3. Pineapple
  4. Onions
  5. Papaya
  6. Frozen Peas
  7. Aubergine
  8. Asparagus
  9. Broccoli
  10. Cabbage
  11. Kiwi
  12. Cauliflower
  13. Mushrooms
  14. Honeydew Melon
  15. Cantaloupe Melon


While the Dirty Dozen list concentrates on fruit and vegetables, cocktails of pesticide residues are found in many different foods, including grains, such as barley, oats and wheat (and subsequently bread). For example, in 2019, 94% of oats contained residues of more than one pesticide. Glyphosate and chlormequat residues were found in all of the grain produce tested in both 2018 and 2019. Glyphosate remains a potential human health issue and is classified by the UN World Health Organization as a ‘probable human carcinogen’.

To learn more about the Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen Lists and how each list is compiled, head to the Environmental Working Group or PAN UK. To discover more about eating organic, head over to the Soil Association. All of Plenish’s products are organic and certified by The Soil Association.