The Environmental Working Group has released its 2015 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, better known as “The Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” lists of the most and least contaminated fruits and vegetables, ranked with USDA data on pesticide levels.
The popular annual Environmental Working Group guide has been grading the pesticide exposure levels in produce since 2004, and for the fifth year in a row, apples top the list as most heavily contaminated. Peaches and nectarines moved up to the second and third spots this year. Avocados topped the list of cleanest produce, with less than one percent testing positive for pesticides.
“Nearly two-thirds of produce samples tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and analyzed by EWG for the 2015 Shopper’s Guide contained pesticide residues – a surprising finding in the face of soaring consumer demand for food without agricultural chemicals,” EWG reported.
Strawberries, grapes, celery, spinach, sweet bell peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas and potatoes were also on the Dirty Dozen list. And there’s a Dirty Dozen Plus category that includes leafy green vegetables and hot peppers, “frequently contaminated with insecticides that are particularly toxic to human health,” the group said in a statement.
Other items on the 2015 Clean Fifteen list include sweet corn, pineapples, cabbage, sweet peas (frozen), onions, asparagus, mangoes, papayas, kiwi, eggplant, grapefruit, cantaloupe, and cauliflower.
“The bottom line is people do not want to eat pesticides with their fruits and vegetables,” said Ken Cook, EWG’s president and cofounder. “That’s why we will continue telling shoppers about agricultural chemicals that turn up on their produce, and we hope we will inform, and ultimately, empower them to eat cleaner.”
The Environmental Working Group also says that the guide shouldn't deter people away from eating fruits and vegetables; the benefits of including these in a healthy diet far outweigh the risks of contamination. Using it as a guide, consumers can make sure to purchase organic options of the items on the Dirty Dozen list to reduce the pesticide risk.
The guides can be found here.
Image: John E. Roberston