In a perfect world all food would be organic and we would all be able to afford as much of it as we need. Since that world does not (yet) exist, we need to find ways to stretch our food-dollar while eating safe, non-contaminated foods. Some fruits and vegetables are more vulnerable to the chemicals used in conventional agriculture, while others remain mostly safe even when sprayed with pesticides. Meet the Clean 15 and the Dirty Dozen.
The Environmental Working Group has compiled these two lists after analyzing the harmful pesticide residue in some of our most common produce. It’s a very helpful tool to have on hand when you are in the grocery store. Learn them by heart, get the app or download and print the wallet-guide.
The growing consensus among scientists is that small doses of pesticides and other chemicals can cause lasting damage to human health, especially during fetal development and early childhood. Scientists now know enough about the long-term consequences of ingesting these powerful chemicals to advise that we minimize our consumption of pesticides.
EWG research has found that people who eat five fruits and vegetables a day from the Dirty Dozen list consume an average of 10 pesticides a day. Those who eat from the 15 least contaminated conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables ingest fewer than 2 pesticides daily. This guide helps us make informed choices to lower our dietary pesticide intake as much as possible.
The produce was tested as it is typically eaten (meaning washed, rinsed or peeled, depending on the type of produce). Rinsing reduces but does not eliminate pesticides. Peeling helps, but valuable nutrients often go down the drain with the skin. The best approach is to eat a varied diet, rinse all produce and buy organic whenever possible.
The Clean 15 (lowest in pesticides)
- Sweet Corn (Frozen)
- Mangos (Subtropical & Tropical)
- Sweet Peas (Frozen)
- Kiwi Fruit (Subtropical & Tropical)
- Cantaloupe (Domestic)
- Sweet Potato
- Honeydew Melon
The Dirty Dozen (always buy organic)
- Blueberries (Domestic)
- Bell Peppers
- Kale/Collard Greens
- Grapes (Imported)
EWG analysts have developed the Guide based on data from nearly 89,000 tests for pesticide residues in produce conducted between 2000 and 2008 and collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. You can find a detailed description of the criteria EWG used to develop these rankings and the complete list of fruits and vegetables tested at the dedicated website, foodnews.org.
Top photo by MarcelGermain, Creative Commons.