Johanzynn Gatewood has bad news for us — and good news, too:

An annual report by the Environmental Working Group found that nearly 70% of samples of 48 types of conventionally grown produce were contaminated with pesticide residues. That’s down 6.6 percentage points from last year.



EWG explains their methods:

The guide is based on results of more than 35,200 samples of produce tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration. It is important to note that the samples are tested for pesticides after they have been prepared to be eaten. This means the produce is thoroughly washed and, when applicable, peeled. After these preparations, pesticide residues are still detected on many of the fruits and veggies.


Environmental health expert and pediatrician, Phillip Landrigan, explains why this annual report on pesticides in produce has been a reliable source of information for members of the American Academy of Pediatrics the last two decades:

“Even low levels of pesticide exposure can be harmful to infants, babies and young children, so when possible, parents and caregivers should take steps to lower children’s exposures to pesticides while still feeding them diets rich in healthy fruits and vegetables. EWG’s guide can help by giving consumers easy-to-use advice when shopping for their families.”


Food writer Mark Bittman has a message for parents:

“If I were of child-rearing age now, or the parent of young children, I would make every effort to buy organic food. If I couldn’t do that, I would rely on the Environmental Working Group’s Guide To Pesticides In Produce. Their “Dirty Dozen” lists those fruits and vegetables with highest pesticide residues, and their “Clean Fifteen” notes those that are lowest. But regardless of age, we need to stay awake, and remember that the dangers of pesticides are as real now as they were half a century ago.”


Leading EWG’s “Dirty Dozen,” says Gatewood, is the perennial favorite we love to eat this time of year:

Strawberries remained at the top of the list with at least 20 pesticides, while spinach jumped into the second spot with twice as much pesticide residue by weight than any other crop.


This year, pears are on the “Dirty Dozen” list and cucumbers are off:

1. Strawberries

2. Spinach

3. Nectarines

4. Apples

5. Peaches

6. Pears

7. Cherries

8. Grapes

9. Celery

10. Tomatoes

11. Sweet bell peppers

12. Potatoes

PLUS: Hot peppers (Last year’s bonus “bad boys” were collards and kale, and summer squash and zucchini — all of which have been left off of this year’s list.)


Not everyone has access to or can afford to buy organic produce for themselves and their family. Fortunately, EWG provides us with the “Clean Fifteen” list of conventionally grown produce with very little, if any pesticide residue:

  • Avocados and sweet corn were the cleanest: only 1 percent of samples showed any detectable pesticides.
  • More than 80 percent of pineapples, papayas, asparagus, onions and cabbage had no pesticide residues.
  • No single fruit sample from the Clean Fifteen tested positive for more than four types of pesticides.
  • Multiple pesticide residues are extremely rare on Clean Fifteen vegetables. Only 5 percent of Clean Fifteen vegetable samples had two or more pesticides.


This year’s newbie is honeydew, nudging sweet potatoes off the list:

1. Sweet corn

2. Avocados

3. Pineapples

4. Cabbage

5. Onions

6. Sweet peas frozen

7. Papayas

8. Asparagus

9. Mangoes

10. Eggplant

11. Honeydew melon

12. Kiwi

13. Cantaloupe

14. Cauliflower

15. Grapefruit


Read the entire report from the Environmental Working Group here.


(Google Images)