Not so long ago, bunching apples, strawberries, and grapes together would sound like the makings of a great fruit salad. Today those three fruits are some of the worst offenders on “the dirty dozen” list- the notorious food list equivalent to the CIA’s top priority hit list.
Compiled by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), “The dirty dozen” refers to the fruits and vegetables that have the worst rep for pesticide content. For these offenders, it’s advised to always buy organic to avoid nasty chemicals that have been proven to create mini-Chernobyl situations in our poor bodies.
Bacon’s certainly never been associated with good health, but it’s something that even the most health conscious might have enjoyed indulging in here and there. Now with the WHO’s recent report directly linking bacon and other meats to colorectal cancer, the responsible food lover is grimly reminded again of how important it is today to scrutinize the foods that you choose to put into your body.
Frighteningly, many surprising foods that you love and associate with good health could be putting your health at risk every day. To help you make the right choices, here’s a list of some of the top dirty foods sitting in your grocery store today, some of which you should always buy organic, and others which should be avoided as if your life depends on it…’cause it kind of does:
12 Ground Turkey
You might think you’re doing your family a favor by swapping out that questionable, fatty ground beef for ground turkey; not so much. A recent US Department of Agriculture (USDA) survey reportedly revealed that more than one in four packages of the minced fowl tested contained three different nasty strains of bacteria, with 24% of the minced birds also found to be contaminated with salmonella. That is one dirty birdy.
If you still want to have your turkey burgers and eat them too, just make sure to cook them very well, making sure you achieve internal temperatures of 180 F. Other interesting advice is to can your Mom’s old trick of rinsing poultry in the sink before cooking it. Instead, food agencies recommend placing the meat directly into the pan, no rinsing, and immediately discarding the container to minimize spreading potential bacteria into your sink and countertops.
With kale’s recent wave of popularity as a touted super-food, you might be feeling healthy and trendy mixing these crinkly green leaves into your smoothies or adding them to your salads. Unfortunately, kale is one of the latest veggies to be lumped in with the criminal EWG’s dirty dozen.
This gives you a great reason to avoid the stuff if you’ve been pretending to enjoy the odd texture all this time! To keep kale in your diet without feeling like you’re poisoning yourself, buy organic. Otherwise at least you can go back to the good old days of making smoothies that aren’t a pukey green.
Say it ain’t so! The berry super-food that makes the best muffins and smoothies ever has just been added to the “Dirty Dozen” list, right along with kale.
Some food watchdogs have gone as far as to place blueberries on an "of special concern" alert list, with the fruit thought to potentially have insecticides categorized by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) as “highly toxic.” Luckily, other scientists have cast doubt on the extent of the pesticides found on these beloved berries, believing that even the trace contamination found on tested samples may have simply spread from other agricultural sources.
Do your own research to draw your own conclusions, but one thing’s clear; you may never look at a blueberry muffin the same way again.
9 Ground Beef
Now that you’ve heard the full turkey on the minced variety, you burger lovers out there might be tempted to head back to making good old beef burgers. Put your BBQ’ing utensils down and take note:
Hundreds of packs of ground beef recently tested by the USDA reportedly revealed three different bacteria strains, with over half of the meat infected with Clostridium Perfringens. You may not have heard of this last nasty bug, but suffice it to say that you don’t want to get acquainted.
Buying organic may not be that realistic for many, with the price of “clean” ground beef often double the cost or more of the regular old dirty variety. As always, if you must use ground beef, just make sure to cook it really well, to a minimum internal temperature of 160 F. Other advice is to pound your burgers flat so they’re guaranteed to cook through and kill all those nasty bugs that may be hovering.
Protein obsessed bodybuilders and other athletes eat breasts of these birds by the bucket load, while millions of mothers happily chop them up everyday to feed to their families, confident they’re providing the healthiest meat available.
Unfortunately, the crazy high demand for this favorite bird has led poultry farmers to over-breed, cruelly jamming the creatures together, thereby also creating highly unsanitary conditions. Recent Consumer Union tests on hundreds of broiler chickens reportedly showed nearly half of the birds infected with Campylobacter jejuni, and 12% infected with that nasty old standby, Salmonella. That’s enough to give you a serious case of the trots.
To make matters worse, reports have long been revealed of poultry farmers resolving the sanitation issue by dousing their filthy chickens in a cocktail of chemicals to kill off the harmful bacteria before shipping them off to the grocery stores. Still craving chicken chow mein for supper?
There’s nothing like biting into a juicy peach in the summer time. But sadly, today these sweet treats are one of the prime offenders on the “dirty dozen” list. In order to meet year round demand and keep their yield blemish free and looking like the perfect fuzzy orbs you usually find at your local grocer, farmers spray the crap out of them with pesticides. Alarmingly, USDA testing on random grocery store peach samples have reportedly revealed up to nine pesticide strains found on any one fruit.
Making matters worse, that fuzzy peach skin seems to holds onto those chemicals mighty well. Apples may have been found to contain more strains of chemicals, taking the number one spot on the dirty dozen list as a result. But studies have reportedly shown peaches to take the top spot for levels of toxicity.
Remember that cool Presidents of the United State of America song? “Movin’ to the country, gonna’ eat me a lot of peaches”…you might want to stop singing that one.
6 Bagged Lettuce
It might seem convenient to buy lettuce pre-chopped, bagged and ready to simply toss into a delicious dinner salad. But it’s sure not worth the risk. Food agency investigators have linked pre-packaged lettuces to an alarming number of food-poisoning outbreaks. Salad greens have reportedly been linked to a whopping 28% of cases, according to the Center For Science in the Public Interest.
Think you’re some kind of smart bug for avoiding the lazy bagged variety, and chopping up your own leafy heads? Unfortunately, even un-bagged lettuce sits on the notorious “dirty dozen” list, having been found to have chemicals up the kazoo. If you want to buy your greens outside of the bag, just make sure to buy organic where possible.
Ever since they started selling them in adorable “baby-size” packs, cucumber sales have exploded at grocery stores everywhere. But there’s nothing cute about the chemicals found on this veggie.
While up to now you may have been regularly chopping cucs into your salads and onto a fresh veggie platter for a cocktail or kids’ party, the average cucumber skin contains enough pesticide residue to send your guests packing. Sitting firmly on the “dirty dozen” list, cucumbers can still be enjoyed mini-sized and otherwise, as long as you try to stick to organic. Otherwise be sure to wash them well, and consider peeling off those contaminated skins!
Turns out all that time Popeye was loading up on spinach for strength, his muscles were popping out freakishly for a different reason; he was mutating from all of the chemicals! Spinach is a firm “dirty dozen” culprit, found to contain chemical residues with the alleged potential to produce all kinds of carcinogenic lumps and bumps in the rest of us too.
If you want the kind of spinach that’s chock full of vitamins rather than pesticides, grab the organic variety, which is luckily widely available at most times in most grocery stores.
3 Raw Oysters
Often considered an aphrodisiac, and served with champagne as high-class fare at trendy dinner gatherings and schmoozy cocktail parties alike, raw oysters have often been associated with wealth and sophistication. But really, these bottom feeders need to be slapped with the dirty stamp they deserve for making a whole lot of sophisticates nothing more than green around the gills.
Even plucked from so called “safe beds,” raw oysters have reportedly been found to be contaminated with all kinds of nasty bugs, including salmonella and the infamous norovirus, much feared by seafarers. So you really might want to think twice before slurping down one of these salty molluscs, or serving them at that swanky Christmas party you’re planning. If you must have them, for heaven’s sake, cook them. Keep the dirt for the dirty martini—seemingly the drink of choice, along with absinthe, that oyster connoisseurs pair with the slimy shell-fish.
Scallions are a cousin of the onion that can provide a wonderful flavor in a variety of dishes, from salads to Asian phad thai. But flavor’s not the only thing green onions are known to carry; they’ve also been known to cause some serious Hep A outbreaks around the U.S. Shady scallions are known for harboring their fair share of salmonella and other nasty bugs too.
If you’re thinking you can get away with using green onions by peeling off the outer layers, think again. The chemicals in this particular veggie have reportedly been found to seep down into the flesh of the onion on a cellular level, as is the case with grapes and other produce. Now that’s truly something to cry about.
1 Processed Meats
The World Health Organization hasn’t just singled out bacon as a surefire cause of cancer. Other processed meats were mentioned in the report as well; namely sausages, hot dogs, salami, and ham. If there was ever an argument to stop eating cold cuts and other processed meats, this is surely it.
Not only are processed meats loaded with sodium and other nasty chemical preservatives to keep them from turning green, but slimy cold cuts in particular have also reportedly been identified by the USDA as having a high risk of causing dangerous listeriosis.
Of course, the dirty on bologna and hot dogs has been circulating for years…but do you really have to give up delicious bacon for good? Probably not. Even the WHO stated that the very occasional bacon sandwich probably won’t do you any harm. Phew! However, it’s likely best to keep avoiding those gnarly looking dried salami sticks sitting out on corner-store cashier counters all over the country.
For the record, the complete list of the original “Dirty Dozen” according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is as follows: apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, nectarines (imported), spinach, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, lettuce, sweet bell peppers, and potatoes. While the list continues to be referred to as the “Dozen” since its inception, many other fruits and vegetables have gradually made their way onto the list, like snap peas (imported), hot peppers, blueberries, and kale. For more information, visit the EWG website.