An Up-to-Date List of the Best and Worst Foods for Pesticides

Mar 13, 2017 at 1:15 p.m. ET
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The next time you shop the produce aisle, you might want to beeline straight for the organic section — especially if strawberries, spinach, nectarines or apples are on your list. As it turns out, they're some of the most pesticide-heavy fruits and veggies according to the Environmental Working Group. The EWG just released its 2017 list of the most and least pesticide-ridden foods, aka “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen.” Here's what you need to know.

To compile the ranking, the EWG analyzed tests by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration of more than 48 different types of produce. This year, the Dirty Dozen list includes, in order, strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, peaches, celery, grapes, pears, cherries, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers and potatoes.

Each of these foods tested positive for a number of different pesticide residues and contained higher concentrations of pesticides than other produce. Spinach made a huge leap from eighth to second place, while pears and potatoes were new additions to the Dirty Dozen, displacing cherry tomatoes and cucumbers from last year's list.

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If all of this has you wondering what in the heck you can eat that’s not covered in chemicals with words you can’t even pronounce, the EWG also came up with the Clean Fifteen, which outlines the produce with the fewest pesticides detected. Those 15 are sweet corn, avocados, pineapples, cabbage, onions, frozen sweet peas, papayas, asparagus, mangoes, eggplant, honeydew melon, kiwis, cantaloupe, cauliflower and grapefruit.

But before you start throwing out any fruits or veggies that aren't on the Clean Fifteen, remember that this list does not mean you are going to keel over and die just because you grabbed the cheaper, non-organic strawberries the last time you were at the store.

Eating fruits and veggies (even non-organic) is still a better choice than processed crap like potato chips and sugar-laden cereals, so use this list as a guide, rather than something to live and die by. Heck, even the EWG believes we need to keep things in perspective, saying: “The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure.” Still, better to know which ones might need a more thorough wash!

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