Founded in 1993, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) fights for consumers' rights to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Each year since 2004 the EWG publishes a list of conventional (non-organic) produce that contain the highest levels of pesticide contamination. This list is called the "Dirty Dozen." The EWG also produces a list of conventional produce with the least amount of pesticide contamination known as the "Clean Fifteen." These guides are based on test results by the USDA and FDA. The top 47 most popular fruits and vegetables are tested and over 43,000 samples are used in the tests. The "Dirty Dozen" for 2020 ranked in order of most contaminated to least are:
Some quick notes on the results and additional findings:
Over 70% of fresh produce in the US contain some residue of potentially harmful chemical pesticides
Raisins were the absolute worst in 2020. 99% of all raisin samples contained 2 or more pesticide residues. Raisins are not on the list as the list traditionally contains fresh fruits and vegetables only.
The tests try to match how consumers would eat these fruits and vegetables at home. Bananas are peeled and blueberries and apples are washed and dried before testing.
Kale has been climbing the list because it has been gaining popularity with consumers due to its rich nutrients and anti-oxidants. Growers are producing more of it and using more pesticides to do it. Some kale samples showed over 18 different pesticide residues!
Strawberries and spinach usually top the Dirty Dozen. No surprises there.
The EWG also produces a guide on the least contaminated produce. Here are 2020's "Clean Fifteen":
Multiple pesticide residues found on the "Clean Fifteen" are rare but 7% of the the produce on the list did show 2 or more pesticides in test results. The best news is that almost 70% of the "Clean Fifteen" showed no pesticide residues at all. All pesticide contaminations discovered were below toxic levels, but the EWG report also emphasized the health implications of consuming foods with pesticide residues over time. There have been numerous peer reviewed studies and tests that suggest eating conventional foods grown or treated with pesticides can contribute to fertility issues, birth defects, increased weight, and decreased cognitive function. How do we increase our chances of not eating pesticides? The EWG suggests you choose Organic. Sure, it's not perfect, but it's a great start. Resources & More Reads: