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Watching—and Washing—What We Eat: The Latest Report on Pesticides on Produce

The non-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG) has released its latest Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, which reviews US government*data on residual pesticides on US produce. The report updates EWG’s “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” lists that rank fruits and vegetables deemed generally safe or in need of careful washing before eating— not everyone agrees that washing is enough—due to detected pesticide residues.

Pesticides on Produce
  1. About 75% of non-organic fresh produce (sold in the US) contains potentially harmful pesticide residues.

  2. Even though the USDA peels or scrubs and then washes produce samples before testing (the FDA only removes dirt before testing), tests detected the presence of 251 different pesticides.

  3. Green beans made the Dirty Dozen list for detected residues of the toxic pesticide, acephate, banned by the EPA over 10 years ago for use on food-grade green beans.

  4. Cantaloupes were dropped from the Clean Fifteen list, whereas carrots were added.

  5. Strawberries topped the Dirty Dozen list, followed by favorites such as spinach (#2), apples (#7), and blueberries (#11).

  6. Altogether, 210 pesticides were detected on Dirty Dozen produce. 

  7. Dirty Dozen produce samples showed up to 23 different pesticides on one sample.

  8. Avocadoes, sweet corn, and pineapples topped this year’s Clean Fifteen list.

US government sources are the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).


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