Organic Food in Ireland: The Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen

Organic keyboard by John Fera, Flickr
Organic keyboard by John Fera, Flickr
Organic keyboard by John Fera, Flickr
Organic keyboard by John Fera, Flickr

Don’t fall for the line that organic food is just a trendy lifestyle choice. There’s nothing new or modish about organics. Until about 1950, all the food we ate was organically produced. It is organic food that is considered as “normal” not the Johnny-come lately, factory-farmed industrial equivalent. Regardless of diet, eating organic is always the better choice.

These days, there are many compelling reasons for buying organic food. It will almost never contain the residues of pesticides that are commonly found in food grown with the aid of agrichemicals. Just six pesticides are approved for approving for organic farming and these can only be used in extremely limited circumstances. Conventional farmers have over 300 at their disposal and use them routinely. The powers-that-be parrot the food industry line that we should not be the slightest bit alarmed that our food regularly contains residues of toxic pesticides because they are all below “safe limits”. But pesticides are poisons. They are designed to kill things. Surely the only truly safe limit would be zero? Why eat toxins if you don’t have to.

Organics Delivered by are you gonna eat that, Flickr
Organics Delivered by are you gonna eat that, Flickr

The list of additives that can be used in organic food is small-just 32 of the 290 additives permitted in Europe. Only additives derived from naturally sources such as lecithin and citric acid are allowed and no artificial preservatives, colourings or flavourings are acceptable. Among the additives banned are those that have been linked to health problems. So if you are buying processed foods, the organic sort won’t contain any dodgy ones.

Genetic modification is not allowed in organic food and organically-reared livestock cannot be fed on GM feed. Organic standards are the most humane and the methods encourage and protect wildlife. Chemical-dependant agriculture, on the other hand, has been shown to harm and deplete it.

You don’t have to get hung up on eating 100% organic though. There are many high-quality, wholesome foods around that do not come with organic certification – such as grass reared meat, game, wild fish and hand-made cheese.

Right Rear - Iowa DOT by Benjamin Hucker, Flickr
Right Rear – Iowa DOT by Benjamin Hucker, Flickr

If you have to watch what you spend, then you need to prioritise what you purchase. It is cheapest when bought direct from a farmer or producer. either via a box scheme, or at a market and farm shops. There is a directive from the Environmental Working Group  that defines what is known and the “dirty dozen” and “clean fifteen” which refers respectively to the most contaminated farmed items to the least contaminated ones.

The list for 2015 is as follows:

The Dirty Dozen (in order of contamination)


The Clean 15 (in order of least contamination)
Sweet peas
Sweet potatoes

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