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. apples
  2. celery
  3. strawberries
  4. peaches
  5. spinach
  6. imported nectarines
  7. imported grapes
  8. sweet bell peppers
  9. potatoes
  10. domestic blueberries
  11. lettuce
  12. kale/collard greens

In this year’s guide, apples are listed as the most contaminated produce (replacing celery, which is now listed as number two). The USDA reports that pesticides were found in ninety-eight percent of the more than seven hundred apple samples tested, and ninety-two percent of the apple samples contained residues from two or more pesticides. A range of fifty-six DIFFERENT pesticides were found on the apple samples.

Pesticide residue was found on ninety-six percent of celery samples, with as many as thirteen different chemicals on one sample. Almost ninety percent of the celery samples contained more than one pesticide.

The EWG says that “celery, spinach, sweet bell peppers, potatoes, lettuces and greens (kale and collards) are the vegetables most likely to retain pesticide contamination.”

Many of the fruits tested for multiple pesticides. Strawberries and domestic grapes both tested for thirteen different pesticides on a single sample. The EWG states that as a category peaches are treated with more pesticides than any other produce (combinations of up to fifty-seven chemicals). Hot peppers are treated with as many as ninety-seven pesticides, cucumbers with sixty-eight, and greens with sixty-six.

The “Clean 15″ lists the fruits and vegetables with the least pesticide residue. Even without buying organic, according to the EWG, if you eat five servings of fruits and vegetables on the Clean 15 list, you will ingest fewer than two pesticides daily (as opposed to an average of fourteen pesticides daily if you eat five servings of non-organic produce on the Dirty Dozen list).

The Clean 15 (lower number equals least pesticide residues)

  1. onions
  2. sweet corn
  3. pineapples
  4. avocado
  5. asparagus
  6. sweet peas
  7. mangoes
  8. eggplant
  9. domestic cantaloupe
  10. kiwi
  11. cabbage
  12. watermelon
  13. sweet potatoes
  14. grapefruit
  15. mushrooms

Onions, sweet corn, and asparagus (in more than ninety percent of the samples), cabbage (in more than eighty percent), sweet peas (in almost eighty percent), and eggplant (in more than seventy-five percent) showed no detectible pesticide residue, and no single sample on the “Clean 15″ tested positive for more than five different chemicals.

Less than ten percent of pineapple, mango, and avocado samples showed detectible pesticides, and less than one percent of these samples tested for more than one pesticide residue. More than half of the grapefruit samples tested positive for pesticide residue, but only slightly more than seventeen percent contained more than one residue. Pesticide residue was found in twenty-eight percent of watermelon samples, but less than ten percent had multiple pesticides.

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-three fruits and vegetables that the USDA tested for pesticide residue.

Complete List of 53 Fruits & Vegetables
Produce is ranked from “worst” to “best”… the lower the number, the more pesticides in the produce.

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

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 apple, anyone?