Every year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) analyzes data about fruits and veggies to create the Dirty Dozen™ and Clean Fifteen™ lists. These lists rank fruits and veggies based on how much — or how little — pesticide residue they have. This year, strawberries topped the Dirty Dozen™ list with more than 98% of samples testing positive for pesticide residues. On the other hand, avocados were deemed to be the “cleanest” produce with the least amount of pesticide residues.
How to Use the Dirty Dozen™ List
Folks who are interested in eating organic foods can use the Dirty Dozen™ list to prioritize which foods to buy organic. The EWG bases these lists on pesticide data from the USDA. However, the EWG’s methods for analyzing the data aren’t perfect. In fact, a study by the Journal of Toxicology found some flaws in EWG’s analysis of the data when they created their 2010 list. In general, fruits and veggies with thicker skins tend to have fewer pesticide residues, and folks can save money by purchasing those conventionally grown.
Whether you choose to buy organic or conventional produce is a matter of your budget, availability, your health and the environment. Even if you can’t afford to buy organic 100% of the time, it’s important to get plenty of fruits and veggies in your diet. And remember that consuming conventional fruits and veggies is better than eating none at all.
To help decide if organic or conventional is right for you, check out our blog about the definition of organic.
EWG’s Dirty Dozen™
- Strawberries top the list with more than 98% of samples containing at least one pesticide residue. The strawberries tested had an average of 5.75 pesticides per sample, compared to 1.74 pesticides per sample of other produce.
- Sweet bell peppers
- Cherry tomatoes
The Clean Fifteen™
Foods that are normally peeled before they’re eaten, like melons and pineapples, are tested for pesticides without their peel. This is why The Clean Fifteen™ list tends to name produce with thick peels. Some of the “cleaner” produce, like cabbage, doesn’t draw much attention from pests and doesn’t require strong pesticides to be used.
None of the fruits on The Clean Fifteen™ list tested positive for more than four pesticide residues. In fact, most of the fruits and veggies on this list had traces of a single pesticide. Only 5.5% of them had two or more pesticide residues.
- Avocados were the cleanest with only 1% of samples having detectable pesticide residues.
- Sweet corn
- Sweet peas (frozen)
- Honeydew melon
Will the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” lists change your shopping habits? Share your thoughts in the comments below.