Unfortunately, today we can never be too careful with what we eat. Tons of the fruits and veggies we enjoy on a daily basis are grown in fields where nasty cancer-causing toxins are used. It’s our job to be aware of what we are eating and know what foods to avoid in order to keep our bodies safe.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) aims to empower people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Each year they produce lists to teach us what foods to ditch and what foods to enjoy. The data analyzed comes from tests done by the USDA, in which produce is washed and peeled to mimic what a consumer would do before it’s tested. After EWG compiles the data, analysts classify the 48 popular fruits and veggies into the 12 that contained the most pesticide residues—The Dirty Dozen—and the 15 that contained the least—The Clean 15. (The Clean 15 were found to have the least pesticide residue, not necessarily no residue.)
These simple lists are meant to make it easy for you to pull a card out of your wallet or open the app on your iPhone and decide whether spending an extra dollar on an organic avocado is worth it to you. (In this case, for instance, you’d find avocados are on the Clean 15, so maybe you want to save your cash.)
Take note of the lists below and remember what to watch out for next time you’re doing your grocery shopping!
THE DIRTY DOZEN
The EWG singles out produce with the highest pesticide loads for its Dirty Dozen™ list. This year, it is comprised of apples, peaches, nectarines, strawberries, grapes, celery, spinach, sweet bell peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas and potatoes. Each of these foods tested positive for a number of different pesticide residues and showed higher concentrations of pesticides than other produce items. Here is this year’s Dirty Dozen:
- Sweet Bell Peppers
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Snap Peas (Imported)
- 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.
Photo courtesy of @wrightkitchen
THE CLEAN FIFTEEN
EWG’s Clean Fifteen™ list of produce least likely to hold pesticide residues consists of avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbage, frozen sweet peas, onions, asparagus, mangoes, papayas, kiwis, eggplant, grapefruit, cantaloupe, cauliflower and sweet potatoes. Relatively few pesticides were detected on these foods, and tests found low total concentrations of pesticides on them. This year’s Clean Fifteen includes:
- Sweet Corn
- Sweet Peas (Frozen)
- Sweet Potatoes
- Avocados were the cleanest: only 1 percent of avocado samples showed any detectable pesticides.
- Some 89 percent of pineapples, 82 percent of kiwi, 80 percent of papayas, 88 percent of mango and 61 percent of cantaloupe had no residues.
- No single fruit sample from the Clean Fifteen™ tested positive for more than 4 types of pesticides.
- Multiple pesticide residues are extremely rare on Clean Fifteen™ vegetables. Only 5.5 percent of Clean Fifteen samples had two or more pesticides.