Smart consumers know about the Dirty Dozen, a list of vegetables and fruits includes the one most often contaminated by pesticides and other environmental toxins. The recommendation is to buy organically-grown versions of these foods in order to avoid unnecessary chemical exposure. These are contrasted with the Clean Fifteen, which aren't heavily sprayed or otherwise contaminated when grown conventionally and are fine to eat when conventionally-grown. These lists are clear, organized, and easy to use and many shoppers have the lists memorized, or at least key members of the lists.
However, when it comes to fish, things get a lot murkier. There are mercury issues to consider, there are issues related to overfishing, and questionable farming practices also enter the picture. Unfortunately, while lists for each of these criteria exist independently, none are compiled into something as clear as the Dirty Dozen.
Well, at least until now. The Food & Water Watch has put together a handout that compiles the criteria into a "Dirty Dozen" for Fish. The list includes fish that are contaminated with metals and other toxins, fish that are not sustainably caught, fish that are subject to unhealthy farming methods, and others. The list includes: Atlantic cod, Atlantic flatfish, caviar, Chilean sea bass, eel, farmed salmon, imported catfish, imported farmed shrimp, imported king crab, orange roughy, shark, and Atlantic bluefin tuna.
The list also includes recommendations of fish and seafood that can be substituted for the "dirty" fish. In all, it makes a great guide for buyers looking to increase fish in their diets while promoting their own health and the health of the planet.
The one and only downside of this otherwise great document is the fact that it doesn't incorporate information on omega-3 content, but we can hardly fault it for that. For those interested in omega-3 content of fish, reference this handy blog that I posted last year. Eat well and be healthy!