2020's Dirty Dozen & Clean 15 Lists Are Out — Here's What You Should Know

mbg Editorial Assistant By Abby Moore
mbg Editorial Assistant
Abby Moore is an Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine.
Summer Produce

Image by Deirdre Malfatto / Stocksy

Every year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) analyzes data from the USDA to determine which fruits and vegetables in the U.S. have the most pesticides and which have the least.

The lists, dubbed the Clean 15 and the Dirty Dozen, are not released to make shoppers avoid these fruits and veggies but instead to help them make informed decisions when it comes to purchasing. 

"Since the Clean 15 are low in pesticide residue—whether it's because they have a peel or simply the way they were produced—those can be bought conventional with low risk," researcher and toxicologist Alexis Temkin, Ph.D., told mbg. This is helpful for people who don't have access or the financial resources to purchase all organic foods. So, which fruits and veggies make up that lower risk list?

The Clean 15 

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapple
  4. Onions
  5. Papaya
  6. Sweet peas (frozen)
  7. Eggplants
  8. Asparagus
  9. Cauliflower
  10. Cantaloupes
  11. Broccoli
  12. Mushrooms
  13. Cabbage
  14. Honeydew melon
  15. Kiwi

Avocados, like last year, came in as the "cleanest," followed closely by sweet corn. Each had less than 2% of samples showing any pesticide residue. The rest of the list still had comfortingly low levels, though. According to the report, "Almost 70% of Clean 15 fruit and vegetable samples had no pesticide residues."

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What's so bad about pesticides?

"Pesticides are designed to kill unwanted organisms, like weeds, so they're naturally designed to have a toxic effect," Temkin said. "And research has shown, when you're exposed to chronic low doses of mixtures of pesticides, it can produce adverse health effects." 

That being said, "The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure," EWG wrote on their website. So, while the next list is something to be mindful of when shopping, don't let it deter you from shopping conventionally grown produce if that's your only option. 

The Dirty Dozen

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

And with all this talk of produce, you're probably wondering: Is it even safe for me to be purchasing produce while COVID-19 is still spreading? Well, yes. According to the CDC, "Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food."

So while it's important to wash your hands before handling food—and it can't hurt to wash those fruits and vegetables when you get home—there is no reason to believe that you should physically distance from your fruits and veg.

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