The Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen are respectively the most pesticide-packed and those with the least pesticide residues among conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables. Analysis of tests done by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) found that almost 70 percent of 48 types of conventionally grown produce were contaminated with pesticides. The USDA found 178 different pesticides and pesticide breakdown products on the thousands of produce samples it tested. These pesticides persisted on fruits and vegetables even after they were washed and, in some cases, even when peeled. However, there are huge differences in the number and amount of pesticides found on various types of produce.
The Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) annual Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce is based on USDA measurements of residual pesticides in fruits and vegetables in the USA. They coined the term the “Dirty Dozen” fruits and vegetables with the most pesticide residues, and the “Clean Fifteen”, with little or no residues detected.
For the full list of 51 or so (they update them every year and produce items tend shift around in order) see the EWG website ewg.org. They also have a useful FAQ page and more details about the pesticides found on some of the produce. The lists below are current for 2017 and I have put 2016 items in brackets where they differ, just to show how the order can change from year to year.
If you can afford it then I recommend eating all organic food, especially if you want to heal from a chronic illness. However, if you are on a tight budget, or perhaps if the particular fruit or vegetable that you want isn’t available at your local organic supplier then use these two lists as guidelines for your decision. This way you can still get the health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables while also limiting your exposure to pesticides.
The Dirty Dozen
Here the dozen fruits and vegetables that are in general the most contaminated with pesticide residues when grown by conventional, non-organic farms. Definitely aim to get at least these ones as organic. They are listed from the most to the least contaminated with pesticide residues. The list is current for 2017 with 2016 differences in brackets.
2. Spinach (Apples)
4. Apples (Peaches)
5. Peaches (Celery)
6. Pears (Grapes)
8. Grapes (Spinach)
9. Celery (Tomatoes)
10. Tomatoes (Sweet Bell Peppers — Capsicums)
11. Sweet Bell Peppers — Capsicums (Cherry Tomatoes)
12. Potatoes (Cucumbers)
The Clean Fifteen
Here are the fifteen safest fruits and vegetables to buy from conventional, non-organic horticulture. They are listed from the least to the most contaminated with pesticide residues. The list is current for 2017 with 2016 differences in brackets.