The Environmental Working Group has updated its “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” lists for those fruits and vegetables with the most and least pesticide residue. According to the EWG, if you buy organic for the twelve fruits and vegetables on the Dirty Dozen list, you can reduce your pesticide exposure by almost ninety-two percent. If you can’t buy all organic, they suggest prioritizing your purchases by buying organic where it counts the most.

The Dirty Dozen (lower number equals most pesticide residues)

  1. strawberries
  2. apples
  3. nectarines
  4. peaches
  5. celery
  6. grapes
  7. cherries
  8. spinach
  9. tomatoes
  10. sweet bell peppers
  11. cherry tomatoes
  12. cucumbers

In this year’s guide, strawberries are listed as the most contaminated produce (replacing apples, which are now listed as number two). The USDA reports that strawberries tested for an average of 5.75 different pesticides per sample, as compared to 1.74 different pesticides per sample for all other produce in the “Dirty Dozen” list. Ninety-eight percent of all strawberry samples tested for residue of at least one pesticide… forty percent tested for residues of ten or more… and some samples tested for as many as seventeen different pesticides. Sixty different pesticides in various combinations are routinely used in strawberry fields.

Almost all (up to 98 percent) of peaches, nectarines, apples, and strawberry samples tested positive for at least one pesticide residue. Grapes and sweet bell peppers contained as many as fifteen pesticides, and potatoes had the most pesticides by weight.

The EWG lists special warnings for leafy greens (kale and collard greens) and hot peppers because they contain trace levels of highly hazardous pesticides that are toxic to the human nervous system. People who eat a lot of these foods are urged to buy organic.

The vegetables on the “Clean 15” list rarely test for multiple pesticides, and only 5.5 percent of the tested samples had two or more. All fruit samples on this list tested for four or fewer types of pesticides.

Only one percent of avocados tested showed any detectable pesticide residue. Sixty-two percent of cantaloupes, seventy-three percent of kiwi, seventy-eight percent of mangoes, eighty-one percent of papayas, and eighty-nine percent of pineapples also had no residue.

The Clean 15 (lower number equals least pesticide residues)

  1. avocados
  2. sweet corn
  3. pineapples
  4. cabbage
  5. sweet peas (frozen)
  6. onions
  7. asparagus
  8. mangoes
  9. papayas
  10. kiwi
  11. eggplant
  12. honeydew melon
  13. grapefruit
  14. cantaloupe
  15. cauliflower

If you’re curious about fruits and vegetables that are not included in the “Dirty Dozen” or “Clean 15” lists, here is the EWG’s analysis of the fifty fruits and vegetables that the USDA tested for pesticide residue.

Complete List of 50 Fruits & Vegetables
Produce is ranked from “worst” to “best”… the lower the number, the more pesticides in the produce.

  1. strawberries
  2. apples
  3. nectarines
  4. peaches
  5. celery
  6. grapes
  7. cherries
  8. spinach
  9. tomatoes
  10. sweet bell peppers
  11. cherry tomatoes
  12. cucumbers
  13. snap peas (imported)
  14. blueberries (domestic)
  15. potatoes
  16. hot peppers
  17. lettuce
  18. kale/collard greens
  19. blueberries (imported)
  20. green beans
  21. plums
  22. pears
  23. raspberries
  24. carrots
  25. winter squash
  26. tangerines
  27. summer squash
  28. snap peas (domestic)
  29. green onions
  30. bananas
  31. oranges
  32. watermelon
  33. broccoli
  34. sweet potatoes
  35. mushrooms
  36. cauliflower
  37. cantaloupes
  38. grapefruit
  39. honeydew melon
  40. eggplant
  41. kiwi
  42. papayas
  43. mangoes
  44. asparagus
  45. onions
  46. sweet peas (frozen)
  47. cabbage
  48. pineapples
  49. sweet corn
  50. avocados

The research used to develop these lists assumes that the produce is rinsed or peeled. Unfortunately, rinsing produce reduces but does not eliminate pesticides, and there often are many nutrients in the peel. The EWG’s suggestion is to “eat a varied diet, rinse all produce, and buy organic when possible.”

Non-organic strawberries, anyone?


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Comments

Diane

wow.. that is just so cool! for someone like me that has a hard time affording organic, but is very concerned about pesticides, a list like this is pure gold!
thank you so much☺

Jana

I wish I could grow my own food but I live in a 6th floor apartment right in the city. I have tried the container gardening route and despite what the advisors say it is impossible to grow enough food in containers. I would like to eat only organic but I can’t afford to do that. Many of the items we eat the most often are on the dirty dozen list. I’m glad to know this information but I don’t know what to do with it.

Ruthanne

It’s getting harder and harder just to eat. My little girl was diagnosed with soy allergy so I have been trying to work around that. I’m very concerned about pesticide residues and I really appreciate these lists and this information.

Jo

Obviously we can’t grow oranges or grapefruit in Maine, but I substitute rose hips (jam) for the vitamin C content. I also try to grow fresh greens in season and pick wild berries. I do not eat corn because most of it now is genetically modified and I don’t have room to grow it. We eat lots of onions and garlic, so that’s good to know onions are “safe”. Tomatoes I grow, Mortgage lifters, and cucumbers for eating and pickles. I am going to have to find a good organic potato – I could eat them three meals a day and never tire of them in any form.
You gave me a good idea. I think I will add a strawberry patch next year. I love to pick them at a farm not too far from here but they are not organic.
I still do not understand why organic produce is so much more expensive than pesticide laden food. Must be more labor intensive, I guess. But good, clean and wholesome food should be a right for all, not just for those with deep pockets.

Bette

What disturbs me the most about these lists is that the organization peeled and washed the produce before doing their pesticide tests. I always thought I was avoiding the problem by peeling and washing. I would like to buy organic produce but there is no way I could ever afford it so I guess I’ll try to avoid as many of the Dirty Dozen as I can.

Dmarie

ooh, I have a half-peck of non-organic peaches on the counter now! I wanted to support my local orchard, but they don’t produce anything organic and only sell a few organic foodstuffs. So, the local vs. organic conundrum continues for me! *sigh*

Tara@riceandbeanslife

Thank you for the complete list! One great positive that is coming out of these types of studies being so heavily publicized is that people are becoming more and more interested and discerning about where their food comes from from how it’s grown and where it comes from to the additives in commercially packaged foods. The more people pay attention the more strides will be made. Not being able to afford or find organics easily is changing little by little with the education of consumers.

jl

Great to see this extremely useful information, sending along to my friends.

Regina

Just curious–if kale and collards are on the dirty dozen–why wouldn’t spinach be on the dirty dozen? Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Paul

I find it surprising that these lists are published without disclosing the fact that GMO is not taken into consideration. Commercial corn, for instance, can be grown using few pesticides if it has been genetically altered to survive a variety of attacks using methods that include producing toxins that kill pests.

Often under pressure from producers with political and financial clout, under-funded government regulatory agencies will declare a food fit for human consumption sometimes with only a year or two of research which is often sponsored by the producers themselves. It is, at best, quietly mumbled about when they discover their mistake years or decades later.