Imagine the produce section of your grocery store. Everything looks fresh and clean, gleaming colorful and nutritious as you wander through to make your meal choices. But a threat lurks, invisible to the eye: pesticides on produce. Just how much pesticide residue is left on your fruits and vegetables?

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has analyzed thousands of tests the US Department of Agriculture conducts on common fruits and vegetables. From that analysis, EWG publishes a list of the twelve with the highest traces of pesticides: The Dirty Dozen.

So, what’s on the top of the list? Well, for the first time non-organic strawberries have surpassed apples for pesticide residue. 98% of strawberries tested had pesticide residue. And 47% had residue of 10 or more kinds of pesticides.


Dirty Dozen

1. Strawberries
2. Apples
3. Nectarines
4. Peaches
5. Celery
6. Grapes
7. Cherries
8. Spinach
9. Tomatoes
10. Sweet bell peppers

What’s the big deal?

The EPA and FDA are letting these foods hit the markets with pesticide residue, so it must not be too harmful, right? Maybe, maybe not. Some say the rules are not up to par with the latest research, which links these chemicals to cancer and endocrine irregularities, especially for children and fetuses. Others claim that the small amounts of pesticides found are not enough to cause damage.

The Center for Ecogenics and Environmental Health at the University of Washington created a fact sheet on pesticides and sites studies conducted on farm workers who have been exposed to high levels of these pesticides and experienced adverse effects. They caution that more studies need to be done and point out that the only way to be 100% free of chemical exposure is to eat all organic.

If all organic isn’t in your budget, you can feel good about choosing from EWG’s “Clean Fifteen” list of fruits and veggies showing low amounts of pesticide residue.

The Clean Fifteen

1. Avocado
2. Sweet corn
3. Pineapples
4. Cabbage
5. Sweet peas (frozen)
6. Onions
7. Asparagus
8. Mangoes
9. Papayas
10. Kiwi
11. Eggplant
12. Honeydew mellon
13. Grapefruit
14. Cantaloupe
15. Cauliflower

Bottom line, buy organic when you can — especially off of the Dirty Dozen list, especially for your kids. And make sure to wash your fruits and veggies thoroughly.

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