Dirty Dozen - A list of pesticide residue levels in food

Understanding the impact of pesticides on the fruits and vegetables we consume is crucial in making informed choices about our food. Exploring the concept of the 'Dirty Dozen' from PAN UK sheds light on the prevalence of pesticide residues and their potential effects on our health. Image credit: PAN UK

Dirty Dozen - A list of pesticide residue levels in food


When we buy fruits and vegetables, we expect them to be fresh and nutritious. However, the use of pesticides in agriculture can leave behind traces of chemicals on or within our food, often referred to as 'residues'.

To ensure food safety, the UK Government routinely monitors pesticide residue levels in the food available for consumption. As part of this process, PAN UK analyses the results of the UK's residue testing program annually and compiles a list known as the Dirty Dozen.

This list highlights the fruits and vegetables most susceptible to contamination by multiple pesticides. It serves as a convenient guide, something you can pin on your fridge or carry in your pocket to aid in making informed shopping choices.


Chemicals can become more harmful when combined - a phenomenon known as the ‘cocktail effect’.

Approximately a quarter of the UK's food supply, notably over a third of fruits and vegetables, contains traces of pesticide cocktails. What's truly alarming is that certain food items carry residues of up to 14 different pesticides.


  1. Pesticide Residues in Food; Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; 09 November 2023: https://www.data.gov.uk/dataset/5d5028ef-9918-4ab7-8755-81f3ad06f308/pesticide-residues-in-food
  2. PAN UK Dirty Dozen report: https://www.pan-uk.org/site/wp-content/uploads/Dirty-Dozen-2023.pdf
  3. PAN UK website: https://www.pan-uk.org/dirty-dozen/
  4. Soil Association and PAN UK report The Cocktail Effect: https://www.soilassociation.org/causes-campaigns/reducing-pesticides/the-pesticide-cocktail-effect/#:~:text=There%20is%20a%20growing%20body,as%20the%20%27cocktail%20effect%27.

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