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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