Make a list and check it twice: “Dirty Dozen” list of fruits and vegetables CONTAMINATED with pesticide residue
04/15/2019 // Zoey Sky // Views

A healthy diet contains lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. However, certain types of produce can also be bad for you. It's not the produce themselves that are bad, but some fruits and vegetables may contain traces of harmful pesticides that are linked to harmful side effects.

Each year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) publishes a list made up of the "Dirty Dozen." This list ranks the pesticide contamination of popular fruits and vegetables. Both the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen lists are based on results of over 40,900 samples of produce tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

All the samples are tested for pesticides after they have been prepared to be eaten, which means the produce is first carefully washed and peeled (when applicable). After the produce has been prepared, results indicate that many of the fruits and vegetables still contain pesticide residues.

Dirty Dozen (2019)

Below is EWG's 2019 Dirty Dozen:

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale
  4. Nectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Peaches
  8. Cherries
  9. Pears
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Celery
  12. Potatoes

For the past four years, strawberries remained in the top spot for the Dirty Dozen. The list is similar to last year's results, with the exception of kale, which made the top 12 for the first time in 10 years. (Related: Pesticide chemicals found in 70% of fresh produce sold in U.S. grocery stores… are you eating poison?)

But according to Jaclyn London, a registered dietitian and Good Housekeeping's nutrition director, you can still eat the fruits and vegetables included in this list if you buy organic produce that is free from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and pesticide residue.


Clean Fifteen (2019)

The EWG also published the "Clean Fifteen," a list that includes 15 of fruits and vegetables "from conventional growers that generally had less residue in the group's tests."

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Frozen sweet peas
  5. Onions
  6. Papayas
  7. Eggplants
  8. Asparagus
  9. Kiwis
  10. Cabbages
  11. Cauliflower
  12. Cantaloupes
  13. Broccoli
  14. Mushrooms
  15. Honeydew melons

London notes that there are two important factors to consider when it comes to produce.

  • Try to eat more. If you want to be healthier, eat more organic fruits and vegetables. Snack on apples or eat a salad for lunch daily. Whenever you skip a fast food meal, you're one step closer to improving your overall well-being.
  • Think about whole foods vs. fresh foods. Whole refers to the best form in which to eat fiber-filled fruit and vegetables, such as fruit instead of fruit juice or vegetables instead of veggie chips. Choosing whole foods will also help you reduce your intake of added sugar, saturated fat, and sodium. This may also include frozen and canned produce.

How to avoid pesticide residues in food

Pesticides don't just keep insects from destroying crops. They are also linked to negative side effects such as cancer and Parkinson’s disease.

Aside from buying organic produce, there are several ways to avoid buying food laced with pesticides.

Always wash fruits and vegetables before eating them.

Washing produce, even if you grew it in your garden, helps get rid of dust, dirt, or chemical residues. Either rub the fruits and vegetables clean with your fingers or to use a special cleaning brush to get rid of all the residue and bacteria.

Don't rinse produce with soap.

Don't use detergents or special soaps to wash produce, unless you're using soap made of natural and organic materials. Dish soap has harmful compounds that can easily penetrate the skin of fruits and vegetables, which may end up doing more harm than pesticides.

Grow your own produce.

Not everyone can cultivate their own garden, but this the best way to ensure that you are eating pesticide-free produce.

Purchase organic fruits and vegetables. 

To limit your overall exposure to pesticides, commit to buying only organic fruits and vegetables. Organic produce costs a bit more than commercially sprayed fruits and vegetables, but the added cost is worth it if you wish to stay healthy.

Take note of the fruits and vegetables included in both lists and buy organic produce to limit your exposure to pesticides and other harmful chemicals.

Sources include:

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