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

mbg Sustainability Editor By Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability Editor

Emma is the Sustainability Editor at mindbodygreen and the author of "The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care."

Image by Igor Madjinca / Stocksy

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 2018 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.

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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.

Looking at this list, we can conclude that fruits and veggies that have delicate exteriors (and therefore run the risk of being destroyed by insects or infection before they make it to market) tend to need more protective chemicals—which makes sense. "When growers decide when to use pesticides, it's really a business decision," explains Naidenko. "Their goal is not to spray a lot of pesticides and poison people but to get their produce to market."

If you're looking to avoid pesticides for the sake of your well-being (not to mention, the health of farmers and the planet), you might want to stay away from the softies. However, as the EWG notes, produce that is grown with pesticides is still better than no produce at all.

"The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure," the report FAQ reads. "Eating conventionally grown produce is far better than skipping fruits and vegetables."

Ready to learn more about how to unlock the power of food to heal your body, prevent disease & achieve optimal health? Register now for our FREE web class with nutrition expert Kelly LeVeque.

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