Organic food often cost more than conventional food, but Environmental Working Group’s (EWG)  Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce can help you make smart shopping decisions and save money on organics. Each year, EWG releases their “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” produce lists, which showcase produce carrying the highest and lowest pesticide loads.  You can use the lists to make better decisions about which produce is safer to buy in conventional form and which produce you should spring more for due to high pesticide loads. Last year, apples were found to contain the most pesticides, and this year is the same, with EWG reporting that around 98% of conventional apples have detectable levels of pesticides. Thus, apples and apple-based products are one item you’ll really want to purchase in organic form. What else showed up on this year’s Dirty Dozen?

Below are the worst offenders (from most pesticides to fewer pesticides) and you should aim to purchase all of this list in organic form.

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Sweet bell peppers
  4. Peaches
  5. Strawberries
  6. Nectarines (imported)
  7. Grapes
  8. Spinach
  9. Lettuce
  10. Cucumbers
  11. Blueberries (domestic)
  12. Potatoes

While compiling this year’s list, EWG found some troubling facts, including the following:

  • Domestic blueberries tested positive for 42 different pesticide residues.
  • Seventy-eight various pesticides were found in lettuce samples.
  • Every nectarine tested by the USDA contained measurable pesticide residues.
  • Grapes have more types of pesticides than any other fruit (64 different chemicals).
  • Thirteen pesticides were measured on a single sample each of celery and strawberries.

This year EWG has expanded the Dirty Dozen list so it includes a Plus category, highlighting two crops to be leery of — green beans and leafy greens (kale and collard greens). Beans and leafy greens didn’t meet traditional Dirty Dozen criteria but were commonly contaminated with highly toxicorganophosphate insecticides that can be toxic to the nervous system so beans and leafy greens are also best bought in organic form.

Keep reading to find out what made the 2012 Clean 15 list.

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Image by Flickr User SoraZG

In good news, the Clean 15 list shows that there is plenty of produce available with lower pesticide loads, so you can feel safer buying conventional if you can’t always afford organic. What is safer to buy in conventional form? The Clean 15 list for 2012 includes the following (from least amount of pesticides to most).

  1. Onions
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Avocado
  5. Cabbage
  6. Sweet peas (frozen)
  7. Asparagus
  8. Mangoes
  9. Eggplant
  10. Kiwi
  11. Cantaloupe (domestic)
  12. Sweet potatoes
  13. Grapefruit
  14. Watermelon
  15. Mushrooms

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

Lead image by mhunter111 via sxc.