Dirty Dozen

What's the Dirty Dozen ?

We're guessing that you don't always rinse off your apple before biting off a chunk. (Neither do we!) But after reading the Environmental Working Group's annual Shopper's Guide to Pesticides, you might think twice before taking that bite.

Every year, the EWG breaks down which fruits and vegetables have the most pesticides and which have the fewest. Their mission is to make food supply more transparent in order to help you decide when it's worth spending extra for organic produce.

For the fifth year in a row, apples have topped the "dirty" list, because of the chemicals applied to the crop before and after harvest to preserve them. And for the second consecutive year, avocados topped the "clean" list, with only 1% of samples showing any detectable pesticides. We'll take any excuse to eat more avocados.

So if it works within your budget, the EWG recommends buying organic whenever possible. And if it's just not doable right now, their guide can help you make more informed choices. The EWG recommends that you eat more fruits and vegetables — even if you're exposed to pesticides — but now you'll have a better strategy.

The dirty dozen and the clean 15 refer respectively to the fruits and vegetables that are the most and least contaminated by pesticide use, according to the Environmental Working Group.

The Dirty Dozen (in order of contamination):
  • Apples
  • Celery
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Peaches
  • Strawberries
  • Nectarines
  • Grapes
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Cucumbers
  • Blueberries
  • Potatoes
Key findings:
  • 99 percent of apple samples, 98 percent of peaches, and 97 percent of nectarines tested positive for at least one pesticide residue.
  • The average potato had more pesticides by weight than any other produce.
  • A single grape sample and a sweet bell pepper sample contained 15 pesticides.
  • Single samples of cherry tomatoes, nectarines, peaches, imported snap peas and strawberries showed 13 different pesticides apiece.