The Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen

The Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen

By Mary Donkersloot, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with Rose Lipner, Intern

Healthy eating means 2-3 servings of fruit and 3-5 servings of vegetables daily.  But when produce is contaminated with unhealthy chemical pesticides, not all produce is equal.

A nonprofit environmental watchdog organization called Environmental Working Group (EWG) looks at pesticide residue data on produce to compile lists called the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean Fifteen”, indicating the most and the least pesticide loads found in commercial crops.

These lists are updated every year, ranking pesticide contamination of 48 popular fruits and vegetables.  The guide is based on results of more than 35,200 samples of produce tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration.  It is important to note that at least one pesticide was found on approximately 70% of produce— and that’s after washing and/or peeling it!

Still, it is better to eat conventionally grown produce than to skip fruits and vegetables altogether.  But the best way to get the benefits of these foods is to buy organic when you can, especially those that are more likely to be contaminated.

Dirty Dozen

Here’s the EWG’s “Dirty Dozen” list.  Make it a priority to buy these foods organically:

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

Additionally,  hot peppers and blueberries may contain organophosphate insecticides, which EWG characterizes as “highly toxic” and of special concern.

Clean Fifteen

EWG also created the “Clean 15” foods that are the least contaminated. It’s okay to buy non-organic varieties of these fruits and veggies. Still, make it a habit to wash them thoroughly before eating or cooking.

  1. Corn
  2. Avocado
  3. Pineapple
  4. Cabbage
  5. Onion
  6. Sweet Peas
  7. Papayas
  8. Asparagus
  9. Mango
  10. Eggplant
  11. Honeydew
  12. Kiwi
  13. Cantaloupe
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Grapefruit

For more information, go to



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