Australia's Secret Dirty Dozen
If you've been on the human health scene for any length of time, it's likely you've at least heard of the 'Dirty Dozen' and the 'Clean Fifteen'. The Environmental Working Group releases these 2 lists of agricultural produce each year (reviewing them in light of updated pesticide residue analysis data from the U.S Department of Agriculture and the FDA) to help consumers reduce their exposure to chemicals used in the production of fruits and vegetables. Of particular relevance is the emphasis on commodities highly consumed by the smallest consumers, babies and children, and for our purposes, pets.
Unfortunately we don't have quite the same rigorous study in Australia, however it's interesting to note that in the 1960's the Australian Government established the National Residue Survey (NRS) in response to concerns about pesticide residues in exported meat. Since then the NRS has grown to include testing of animal and plant products for residues of pesticides, veterinary medicines and other contaminants.
The biggest issue that I have with this system however is that this extensive database is made available to participating industries and government only, with data release carefully 'managed' under 'Release of Information' of the Admin Act to ensure confidentiality and privacy..... but what about the consumer? Don't they think that the food purchasing public would appreciate knowing what pesticides and pharmaceutical residues are present in their foods?!?!?
TOXIC STRESS FOR PETS
It is well known that pesticides, herbicides and other environmental toxins have been linked to a variety of adverse health outcomes, from brain and nervous system toxicity, cancer, hormone disruption, skin, eye and lung irritation to neurological disorders and birth defects. It is also important to note that your pet is much smaller than you are, which means toxins accumulate more rapidly, and being physically closer to the ground, they are also more susceptible to increased toxic load due to carbon pollution, pesticide run-off, garden chemicals, fertilisers, sludge, household chemicals, and floor cleaners.
SO WHAT CAN WE DO?
When choosing fresh produce for yourself and your furry friends keep these lists in mind. Regardless of where you live they are a good starting point, and until the Australian Government decides to show up to the party they are the best that we have. So if anyone does take issue with the U.S version being irrelevant or redundant for the Australian market, particularly if you are a producer yourself, I would advise that you speak to your local, state or federal member and lets get real on what's actually happening in our own backyard.
If you're looking to make healthier choices, ensure you ALWAYS buy organic options of the foods listed in the Dirty Dozen as these are the most heavily sprayed and therefore toxic food crops. If you're trying to save a few dollars you can generally get away with buying "conventional" (what's conventional about covering food in toxic chemical?!?) options of those listed in the Clean Fifteen as these are the food crops analysed as having a lower amount of chemical residues. Please ensure that you avoid feeding your pets any of the foods marked with an asterix (*), these are not safe or may be toxic and are best avoided.
THE 2019 DIRTY DOZEN
NOTE: Kale's recent appearance on these lists has pushed capsicum off for the first time in a long time, however hot peppers still remain a 'bonus' item as they are found to contain insecticides known to be toxic to the human nervous system.
THE 2019 CLEAN FIFTEEN
Frozen sweet peas
Be aware that if you want to eat produce grown without the use of toxic chemicals you need to look for spray-free or speak to your organic producer. The best option however is really TO GROW YOUR OWN FOOD!