2015 Dirty Dozen (pesticide-laden fruits, veggies) and Clean 15

Apples at Market

Apples at Market

By Catherine Haug, April 13, 2016; updated April 27 to add the Clean 15 (image, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has published it’s annual “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” lists based on tests on over 7,000 samples (non-Organic) around the country during 2014. Dirty Dozen are fruits and vegetables with the highest levels of pesticide residue, and Clean 15 are those with the lowest levels; the tests do not include seeds and grains, just fresh produce. (1,2) Compare this with  2013 “Dirty Dozen” – Foods best as Organic published in 2013.

They also added a new category: Dirty Dozen Plus, which may not have had high levels of pesticides, but those they found were particularly toxic. (1,2)

Note that these tests are on non-organic produce. To avoid the toxic pesticides, always choose Organic when you can.

EWG’s Clean 15 (OK to Buy These Conventional):

These are EWG-tested conventionally-raised produce that have low enough toxic load that allows you to skip Organic and use the money saved to spend on Organic versions of the Dirty Dozen. (2,3)

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Cabbage
  5. Sweet peas (frozen)
  6. Onions
  7. Asparagus
  8. Mangos
  9. Papayas
  10. Kiwi
  11. Eggplant
  12. Honeydew melon
  13. Grapefruit
  14. Cantaloupe
  15. Cauliflower

EWG’s Dirty Dozen:

These are produce that you’re better off buying Organic, to avoid the pesticide/herbicide toxic load on conventionally-raised produce.

  1. Strawberries
  2. Apples
  3. Nectarines
  4. Peaches
  5. Celery
  6. Grapes
  7. Cherries
  8. Spinach
  9. Tomatoes
  10. Sweet bell peppers
  11. Cherry tomatoes
  12. Cucumbers

Dirty Dozen Plus: (may not have had high levels of pesticides, but those they found were particularly toxic.)

  1. Hot peppers
  2. Leafy greens (including kale and collard greens)

Those fruits on the Dirty Dozen list often are thin-skinned, such as cherries, so that people generally eat the skin with the rest of the fruit. Pesticides sprayed on such fruits are easily absorbed by the fruit under the skin, so that you cannot easily wash them off.

Thicker-skinned fruits such as citrus and bananas generally don’t make the list because the skin is not tested, since most people don’t eat the skin. However, beware of citrus zest from non-Organic fruit, as it may have high levels of pesticides.

Other problematic foods not tested

This first list is produce that is likely to be GMO unless labeled ‘certified Organic’ or ‘certified Organically grown’. Those that are GMO may have been overly-treated with pesticides/herbicides:

  • Yellow summer squash, zucchini
  • Hawaiian papaya
  • Potatoes (though potatoes sold whole for human consumption are likely not GMO, frozen french fries, potato tots, etc., or to be used as animal feed are more likely to be GMO.(4)
  • Tomatoes (this was the first-to-be-developed GMO produce); the general public did not take to them as fresh produce, but they may be in tomato products like ketchup and tomato/pasta sauces. (4)

From my 2013 posting, the following that are not Organic may have even higher levels of pesticides than produce:

  1. Fatty meats: “While there are generally no pesticides found in beef muscle, fat is another story. Fewer than a dozen pesticides have been detected in beef fat, but among them are long-lived chemicals that accumulate in human fats just as they do in beef cattle.” Chicken and pork are also on the list.  I highly recommend buying from local ranchers & farmers, so you know how the animals are raised and what they are fed. Livestock raised AND finished in pasture are the safest.
  2. Commercial milk: 12 different pesticides found in commercial milk; especially troublesome because milk is a staple of children’s diets. but pesticides aren’t the only problem; many commercial brands feed their dairy animals on GMO corn & soy feed, and almost all are ultra-pasteurized, which greatly diminishes the nutritive value of the milk (see my article Food Safety and Pasteurization for more).  This is one to buy local (to avoid ultra-pasteurization), and Organic.
  3. Coffee: no statistics on this one, but coffee is grown in countries with lax regulations on pesticides. Choose Organic AND Free-Trade, so the farmers get their fair share of the profits.
  4. Wine: like coffee, there are not statistics on wine, but the grapes are grown in countries with lax regulations on pesticides. Plus grapes have been tested to have more than 30 pesticides.
  5. Chocolate: like coffee, there are not statistics on chocolate, “but cocoa beans are grown in across the developing world, sometimes in countries without strict laws governing use of pesticides, worker rights or other factors we’d consider basic in the US.”


  1. takepart.com/article/2016/04/12/most-contaminated-fruits-and-veggies
  2. ewg.org/foodnews/dirty_dozen_list.php and ewg.org/foodnews/list.php
  3. sites/articles/archive/2016/04/27/pesticides-fruits-vegetables.aspx
  4. newhealthguide.org/Genetically-Modified-Food-List.html

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