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AFF: Following the ‘Dirty Dozen’ list makes produce bill go up 48%

angry kid grocery shopping

This is a blog post from the Alliance for Food and Farming on February 22, 2023:

First, peer reviewed research has shown that the so-called “dirty dozen” list is not scientifically supportable and its recommendation to substitute organic forms of produce for conventionally grown do not result in any decrease in risk, because residues are so low if present at all.

But what about the list author’s claims that following their “dirty dozen” and “clean 15” recommendations are also cost effective? From media reports: “If you only have a certain amount of money to spend at the grocery store, the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 can steer you toward the produce you should prioritize buying.”

The Alliance for Food and Farming (AFF) decided to take a look at the associated costs of using these lists. We referenced pricing from a major grocery store chain to compare costs on nine produce items on the “dirty dozen” list that were in season. We ensured quantities, pack sizes and produce varieties were the same and based the amount purchased on what a family of four might consume in a seven to 10-day period.

The result was a spending increase on produce purchases of 48% if a consumer were to follow the substitution advice from the “dirty dozen” list.

We then examined the list author’s advice regarding using both the “dirty dozen” and “clean 15” to see what cost savings may result. For this we used per capita consumption levels to determine the most popular fruits and vegetables among American consumers and used this as our basis for comparison.

Using frequently consumed fruits and vegetables from both lists (four fruits and five vegetables), if a consumer were to follow the list author’s recommendations, their cost of produce would be 34% higher than if they simply purchased safe and healthy conventionally grown versions of all nine items.

The AFF did this cost analysis to further underscore the need to ignore these types of lists. Not only are their recommendations scientifically discredited, but the list author’s contentions about cost efficiencies are also unsupportable.

Further, peer reviewed research has shown that when low-income consumers hear “dirty dozen” list messaging, they state they are less likely to purchase any produce – organic or conventionally grown.

As we are dealing with inflation and low consumption of these nutrient-dense foods, it is more important than ever to reassure consumers about their choices in the produce aisle.

It’s time to abandon these lists and instead listen to health experts everywhere who recommend eating more organic and conventional fruits and vegetables every day for better health and a longer life. Choose what fruits and vegetables you enjoy and prefer. It’s that simple.