The Environmental Working Group has released its 2016 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, better known as “The Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” lists of the most and least contaminated fruits and vegetables.
The Dirty Dozen
The annual Environmental Working Group guide has been grading the pesticide exposure levels in produce since 2004. This year strawberries topped the list as being the most heavily contaminated, beating out apples which have been at the top of the list for the last 5 years in a row. Apples moved to second with nectarines and peaches being bumped down to third and fourth spots respectively.
“Nearly three-fourths of the 6,953 produce samples tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture contained pesticide residues – a surprising finding in the face of soaring consumer demand for food without synthetic chemicals,”
This year, celery, grapes, cherries, spinach, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers were also on the Dirty Dozen list. Each of these foods tested positive for a number of different pesticide residues and showed higher concentrations of pesticides than other produce.
And there’s also a Dirty Dozen Plus category that includes leafy green vegetables and hot peppers, This category has been included for the last four years to highlight two types of food that contain trace levels of insecticides toxic to the human nervous system.
The Clean Fifteen
Avocados topped the list of the cleanest produce again, with less than one percent testing positive for pesticides. Other items on the 2016 Clean Fifteen list include sweet corn, pineapples, cabbage, frozen sweet peas, onions, asparagus, mangoes, papayas, kiwis, eggplant, honeydew melon, grapefruit, cantaloupe, and cauliflower. Relatively few pesticides were detected on these foods.
The Environmental Working Group also says that the guide shouldn’t deter people away from eating fruits and vegetables; the benefits of including these in a healthy diet far outweigh the risks of contamination. Using this as a guide, consumers can purchase organic options of the items on the Dirty Dozen list to reduce their overall pesticide risk.