Pesticide residues in fruit and vegetables

Driven by health concerns, the government monitors residue levels in food consumed in the UK.

image: poster dirty dozen clean fifteen fruit veg

Pesticide Action Network (PAN) UK has analysed and compiled the most recent five years of government data and turned it into a handy list you can take when you go shopping.

The ‘Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen’ list is based on how many of the samples tested revealed residues of more than one pesticide.

For example, one sample of pears contained seven known, probable or possible carcinogens and five endocrine disruptors.

Our 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’.

It is also worth bearing in mind that many of the pesticides used nowadays are ‘systemic’, which means that residues are contained within the entire piece of produce rather than just on the surface.

So peeling and washing fruit and vegetables will often be insufficient to remove all residues. The solution, a fully organic diet, can be difficult and expensive to achieve but the list can help you to work out which product to prioritise.

For example, multiple residues are more prevalent on grapefruits, oranges and lemons but beetroot, mushrooms and corn on the cob were multiple-residue-free.

See and download PAN's full list here.

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