Dirty Dozen Fruits and Vegetables – A Winter Refresher

Red Apples

As we head into the holidays, many of us will be cooking large meals and using fresh fruits and vegetables. I figure now is a good time for a quick refresher on the Dirty Dozen – those fruits and vegetables in the U.S. food supply that show the most pesticide residues.

Each summer, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases a list of fruits and vegetables ranking those with the most pesticide residues. The pesticide residue amounts come from testing by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and include pesticides that are legal for use in the United States.

This year, the USDA tested 48 fruits and vegetables. The testing involved fruits and vegetables that are prepared as they are usually eaten by people. For instance, bananas are peeled, then tested. Strawberries are washed and hulled, then tested. Pesticide residues showed up on 67% of fruits and vegetable samples tested.

Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet. The recommended daily intake is two servings of fruits and three servings of vegetables. Only about one third of Americans eat enough of either. Don’t let the Dirty Dozen list dissuade you from eating fruits and vegetables. Even a conventionally grown fruit or vegetable is better for you than a jelly doughnut.

The list is prepared so that we, as shoppers, can make informed decisions about which fruits and vegetables we buy. To my mind, more information is always better.

The Dirty Dozen are:

  1. Apples – the most pesticide residues of any fruit or vegetable on the list
  2. Strawberries
  3. Grapes
  4. Celery
  5. Peaches
  6. Spinach
  7. Sweet Bell Peppers
  8. Imported Nectarines
  9. Cucumbers
  10. Potatoes
  11. Cherry Tomatoes
  12. Hot Peppers

The fruits and vegetables with the least amount of pesticide residues are:

  1. Sweet Corn – the least pesticide residues of any fruit or vegetable on the list
  2. Onions
  3. Pineapples
  4. Avocados
  5. Cabbage
  6. Frozen Sweet Peas
  7. Papayas
  8. Mangoes
  9. Asparagus
  10. Eggplant
  11. Kiwi
  12. Grapefruit

The full list of fruits and vegetables is on EWG’s site. Read more about their methodology on their site.

The EWG has also released a list of endocrine disruptors to watch out for.

Red apples photo via Shutterstock

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6 thoughts on “Dirty Dozen Fruits and Vegetables – A Winter Refresher”

  1. This so-called “list” has been examined by experts and shown to lack scientific credibility. In a peer reviewed paper in the Journal of Toxicology, it was determined that substitution of organic forms of produce for conventional forms on the list did not result in any reduction of risk. Further, the USDA clearly states that residues do not pose a food safety concern based upon the findings of their Pesticide Data Program report. The best advice for consumers is also the simplest – eat more organic and conventional produce for better health and a longer life. This advice is substantiated by decades of nutritional studies that show people who eat more fruits and veggies enjoy improved health – these studies were largely conducted using conventionally grown produce.

    To read the Journal of Toxicology report and the actual USDA Pesticide Data Program Report, visit safefruitsandveggies.com. Read, learn, chooose but eat more produce every day.

      1. The Alliance for Food and Farming actually represents organic and conventional farmers or groups that represent those farmers. We take no money or support at all from the pesticide industry. And, our entire tax return is posted at safefruitsandveggies.com so you can verify who we represent. Our mission is to provide accurate, factual and science based food safety information to consumers so they can make the right food choices for their families. Our hope is that these facts lead consumers to consuming more conventional and organic produce each day for better health.

        1. ‘The Alliance for Food and Farming (AFF) acts as a front group for the fruit and vegetable industry, declaring the safety of numerous pesticides.[1] According to its website, the group “was formed in 1989 and currently has a membership of approximately 50 agricultural groups representing a wide range of organizations including commodity boards, major farm groups and individual grower/shippers.” [2] It was registered as a non-profit in 1997 and did not disclose its member organizations until 2012, when it posted its California tax return, including its contributors, on its website (see contributors below).[3] In July 2010, the Alliance for Food and Farming held a webinar and released a paper aiming to “debunk” the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list of the most pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables that should be purchased as organic whenever possible.

          The AFF reported an annual revenue of $267,617 in 2011.[4]’

          — Sourcewatch

          1. The Alliance has presented peer reviewed science that does discredit the “Dirty Dozen” list, because facts not fear should drive consumer choice. And, the Alliance will continue to present science based information about the safety of all produce to counter misinformation and inaccuracies.

            More to the point, your comment has substantiated our statement that we represent farmers and farm groups and have no support from the pesticide industry. And, as you can see from reviewing our tax return, we are a small non-profit organization. For perspective, the Alliance’s total budget is less than a top EWG executive’s annual salary (and they have multiple top executives).

            But why the attack on the Alliance? We strongly support consumer choice. Choose what is right for your family – organic or conventional -, but eat more fruits and vegetables for better health. Even the EWG clearly states that they believe conventional produce is safe.

            Visit safefruitsandveggies.com to learn more.

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