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?

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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☺


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.


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.


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.


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. So no, I don’t think I’ll take you up on that offer of a non-organic apple!!!


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*


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.


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


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?


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.