Pesticides In Produce: The 2017 Dirty Dozen & Clean Fifteen

BY NICK LASKY, Food Advocate

Fresh with the news that the EPA recently halted its testing for Monsanto’s weed killer ingredient (known as Glyphosate) in our food , taking a look at how much pesticides are in our food is more important than ever!

Every year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) creates a list of the top 12 types of “conventional” produce with the highest amount of pesticides and a list of the top 15 cleanest types of produce with the least amount of pesticides. The EWG uses pesticide residue testing data from the USDA and FDA and to create the lists.

Here are the lists for 2017:

The EWG’s Dirty Dozen below are fruits and vegetables listed from worst to best – lower numbers indicate more pesticides.

Dirty Dozen 

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Nectarines
  4. Apples
  5. Peaches
  6. Pears
  7. Cherries
  8. Grapes
  9. Celery
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Sweet Bell Peppers
  12. Potatoes

It is STRONGLY RECOMMENDED when buying any item in the Dirty Dozen above to buy ORGANIC. Even after washing these types of produce, they are likely to still have the most pesticide residue.

The EWG’s Clean Fifteen below lists fruits and vegetables with the least amount of pesticide residue with the lowest number indicating the least amount of pesticide residue.

Spraying pesticide in melon farm of Thailand.

Clean Fifteen

  1. Sweet Corn
  2. Avocadoes
  3. Pineapple
  4. Cabbage
  5. Onions
  6. Sweet Peas Frozen
  7. Papayas
  8. Asparagus
  9. Mangoes
  10. Eggplant
  11. Honeydew Melon
  12. Kiwi
  13. Cantaloupe
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Grapefruit

Now of course it is recommended that you buy only organic produce all the time. But if you find yourself in a situation where you are traveling and don’t have access to organic produce, on a low budget, or you are trying to choose between buying local and organic, then the Clean Fifteen is the way to go.

The Clean Fifteen should be not too bad as long as you give them a very thorough washing.

Clearly, most produce on the Clean Fifteen have a protective outer layer that absorbs the pesticides and preserves the integrity of the food inside. This is mostly a good rule to follow but is not universal. “Conventional” apples, for instance, have a pretty thick peel but are now generally treated with a fungicide after they are harvested in order to keep the peel from breaking down.

Glyphosate (Round-Up) is the most commonly used pesticide and has been linked with various health problems.

Here is a good study for learning more about the different pesticides used and their effects.


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