Each year Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, better known as the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15? produce lists, shows consumers what the government doesn’t want you to know – which produce contains the most pesticide residue. EWG bases their annual list on the analysis of 48 popular fruits and vegetables; 32,000 samples total, tested by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Because the USDA and FDA aren’t exactly forthcoming about their findings, EWG puts together their handy annual guide showing you, the consumer, which produce has the highest and lowest pesticide loads. Consumers can use the lists to make smarter, healthier decisions about how and where to spend their food dollars. For example, if an item is on the Dirty Dozen list, you’d do well to spring for organic, in order to lower your pesticide load. If an item is on the Clean 15 list, it means the produce has a smaller pesticide load and is safer to buy in conventional form than items on the Dirty Dozen list. In ongoing bad news for the conventional apple industry, apples yet again top the Dirty Dozen list, meaning, apples contain more pesticides per bite than any other produce out there. Keep reading to see what other produce items made the Dirty list and which produce is safer for your family, even if you buy conventional.


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Most of the produce showing up on the 2014 Dirty Dozen list were the usual culprits, including strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, spinach, sweet bell peppers, imported nectarines, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, potatoes and imported snap peas. However, EWG also has a Dirty Dozen-Plus list which shows that leafy greens, such as kale and collard greens, plus hot peppers were frequently contaminated with insecticides that are particularly toxic to human health – so buy those in organic form too. If you want to save your money for all those organic apples you’ll be buying, it’s nice to know that some produce, featured on the Clean 15 list contained fewer pesticides, so although it’s always smart to buy organic, you can more safely buy the following in conventional form: avocados, corn, pineapples, cabbage, frozen sweet peas, onions, asparagus, mangoes, papayas, kiwi, eggplant, grapefruit, cantaloupe, cauliflower and sweet potatoes.

IMPORTANT – Something to think about: When you buy produce, remember you’re buying it in many forms. For example, apples contaminated with pesticides also make their way into cereal, applesauce, juice, baked goods and other apple products, so only buying whole, fresh apples in organic form is of little help. Anytime you buy any conventional item containing something from the Dirty Dozen list, you’re getting more pesticides than you bargained for.

RELATED | INFOGRAPHIC: Who Owns Organic Food Companies in 2014?

+ EWG’s 2014 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce

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