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Dirty Dozen & Clean Fifteen 2019: These Fruits & Veggies Have The Most Pesticides

Emma Loewe
March 20, 2019
Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director
By Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director
Emma Loewe is the Senior Sustainability Editor at mindbodygreen and the author of "Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us."
Image by Igor Madjinca / Stocksy
March 20, 2019

Every year, the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen provide a snapshot of pesticide use in America.

To put it together, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) analyzes USDA data on the chemicals found on grocery store produce. Then, the watchdog organization compiles it into an easy-to-digest list of fruits and veggies that tended to contain the most and least pesticides in the past year.

While the USDA data tends to be inconsistent (the EWG told us that the produce they test every year varies, as do the chemicals they test for), the list provides helpful suggestions for those of us looking to avoid pesticides, which are now present in nearly 70 percent of produce sold in the U.S.

"Some produce samples can have more than 50 different types of pesticides," Olga Naidenko, Ph.D., EWG's senior science adviser, told mbg. In total, the most recent analysis identified 225 different pesticides—all of which were found after produce was washed in cold water for 15 to 20 seconds and, if applicable, peeled.

Let's take a look at the highs and lows on this year's just-released list. (And if you're curious, you can compare them to the most up-to-date rankings here.)

EWG's Clean Fifteen 2019

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet Corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Sweet Peas Frozen
  5. Onions
  6. Papayas
  7. Eggplants
  8. Asparagus
  9. Kiwis
  10. Cabbage
  11. Cauliflower
  12. Cantaloupes
  13. Broccoli
  14. Mushrooms
  15. Honeydew Melons

Avocados, the beloved healthy fat of the wellness world, won the cleanest produce award again this year. Fewer than 1 percent of conventionally grown avocados tested positive for pesticides, thanks to the fruit's thick skin that protects its edible interior.

If you're looking to save some money on produce, buying non-organic when it comes to fruits and veggies that have an inedible protective barrier seems to be a safe bet.

EWG's Dirty Dozen 2019

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale
  4. Nectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Peaches
  8. Cherries
  9. Pears
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Celery
  12. Potatoes

This year, strawberries topped the Dirty Dozen list yet again. EWG scientists explained that this might have to do with the fact that the fruit is often sprayed with chemicals in transit as well as on the farm. The same goes for apples: An incredible 80 percent of conventionally grown ones contain diphenylamine, a chemical treatment that prevents them from browning in storage but has been banned in the E.U. for years due to health concerns.

Emma Loewe author page.
Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director

Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.

Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.