Dirty Dozen: Fruits and Veggies with Most Pesticides

Buying organic produce can be a bit pricier than non-organic options. However, knowing which fruits and vegetables are most likely to contain pesticides can help you make smarter choices about which organic items to prioritize. This is where the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) “Dirty Dozen” list comes in handy.

Understanding the Dirty Dozen

The EWG analyzes data from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to identify fruits and vegetables most likely to carry pesticide residues. In their most recent study, they examined 46,569 samples of 46 different types of produce. The findings revealed that nearly three-quarters of nonorganic produce had detectable levels of pesticides when they reached grocery stores.

Top Offender: Strawberries

Leading the list are strawberries, which had the highest number of pesticide residues among all the produce tested. This might come as a surprise, as strawberries are often touted as one of the healthiest fruits. However, their lack of a protective skin makes them more susceptible to pesticide contamination.

Other High-Risk Produce

The EWG’s analysis found that fruits and vegetables with edible skins or no protective casing are more likely to have pesticide residues. Here’s the complete list of the Dirty Dozen:

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale, collard, and mustard greens
  4. Peaches
  5. Pears
  6. Nectarines
  7. Apples
  8. Grapes
  9. Bell and hot peppers
  10. Cherries
  11. Blueberries
  12. Green beans

Additional Insights

The study highlighted some worrying statistics:

  • Over 90% of strawberries, apples, cherries, spinach, nectarines, and grapes tested positive for residues of two or more pesticides.
  • A total of 210 different pesticides were found on Dirty Dozen items.
  • Kale, collard, and mustard greens, along with bell and hot peppers, had the highest number of different pesticides detected, with 103 and 101 respectively.

The Clean 15: Safer Choices

In contrast to the Dirty Dozen, the EWG also identifies the “Clean 15,” which are the fruits and vegetables least likely to contain pesticide residues. These include:

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapple
  4. Onions
  5. Papaya
  6. Sweet peas (frozen)
  7. Asparagus
  8. Honeydew melon
  9. Kiwi
  10. Cabbage
  11. Mushrooms
  12. Mangoes
  13. Sweet potatoes
  14. Watermelon
  15. Carrots

These foods typically have skins or other protective layers that are not consumed, making them less susceptible to pesticide contamination.

Making Informed Choices

Buying organic versions of the Dirty Dozen can significantly reduce your exposure to pesticides. Even if you can’t buy all organic, focusing on these high-risk items can help you get the most value for your organic dollar. A quick rinse or using a produce wash can also help reduce pesticide residues on non-organic produce.

For an extra layer of safety, consider using reverse osmosis filtration or whole-home water conditioners. These systems can help remove contaminants, including pesticides, from your water supply, ensuring that the water you use to wash your produce is as clean as possible. This is particularly beneficial for households with sensitive individuals or young children.

By understanding the risks and taking proactive steps, you can enjoy your fruits and vegetables while minimizing your exposure to harmful chemicals.

Source: Environmental Working Group