The Dirty Dozen And The Clean Fifteen

Washing alone cannot get rid of all the pesticides in some of our favorite fruits and vegetables.

Say it ain’t so! These 12 popular produce items, better known as the “Dirty Dozen,” are widely recognized as the most pesticide-laden foods in the grocery store. And the statistics behind these lists are frightening. The Environmental Working Group ( tested these Dirty Dozen and found that 98% of the samples taken from some of the foods on this list (apples, strawberries, peaches, nectarines, cherries, and spinach) tested positive for at least one harmful pesticide. Unfortunately, washing your fruit does not do enough to remove these pesticides from the fruits and vegetables.

So what can we as consumers do to get away from exposure to harmful pesticides in our food? The USDA and the EPA both impose regulations on chemicals in our foods, but there is still an abundance of concern for what effect regular exposure to harmful pesticides and chemicals in our food will have on us, especially children.

Below, the list of the top contaminated fruit and vegetables:

The Dirty Dozen

  • Strawberries
  • Spinach
  • Nectarines
  • Apples
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Cherries
  • Grapes
  • Celery
  • Tomatoes
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Potatoes
  • *Hot peppers (Hot peppers were recently added due to tests that revealed elevated levels of pesticides)

Now that we know the main culprits, what can we do? The best recommendations are to buy the organic varieties of these foods, when possible. If organic is not an option, try something new and consider the foods that have made the “Clean Fifteen” list – foods that are considerably lower in pesticide contamination than the Dirty Dozen.

The Clean 15

  • Sweet Corn
  • Avocados
  • Pineapples
  • Cabbage
  • Onions
  • Frozen Sweet Peas
  • Papayas
  • Asparagus
  • Mangoes
  • Eggplant
  • Honeydew
  • Kiwi
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cauliflower
  • Grapefruit

These statistics are scary, but knowledge is power. We can’t stop eating fruits and vegetables because they are a part of a healthy lifestyle, but we can use our knowledge to make better food choices and advocate for food safety and protection.