Which fruits and veggies top the “Dirty Dozen” list?

Which fruits and veggies top the “Dirty Dozen” list?

For the first time in five years, strawberries topped apples as the fruit with the highest pesticide load on the 2016 Dirty Dozen list, published by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

The EWG listed strawberries as number one due to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) tests in 2014 and 2009, which found up to 17 different pesticides in their samples. Additionally, 98 percent of strawberry samples had pesticide residue, along with peaches, nectarines and apples.

The Dirty Dozen list is part of the EWG Shoppers Guide to Pesticides in Produce, which helps consumers prioritize which produce to buy organic in order to reduce their pesticide intake. In addition, a Clean Fifteen list shows which items are safe to eat without buying organic.

Here are the complete lists for 2016:

Dirty Dozen

  1. Strawberries
  2. Apples
  3. Nectarines
  4. Peaches
  5. Celery
  6. Grapes
  7. Cherries
  8. Spinach
  9. Tomatoes
  10. Sweet bell peppers
  11. Cherry tomatoes
  12. Cucumbers
    *Hot peppers
    *Kale and collard greens
    *included in the list because they contain pesticides toxic to the human nervous system

Clean Fifteen

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Cabbage
  5. Sweet peas frozen
  6. Onions
  7. Asparagus
  8. Mangos
  9. Papayas
  10. Kiwi
  11. Eggplant
  12. Honeydew melon
  13. Grapefruit
  14. Cantaloupe
  15. Cauliflower

According to the EWG, even though there is a consumer demand for food with fewer chemicals, in 2014, the USDA still found 146 different pesticides in thousands of produce, and 6,953 produce samples had pesticide residue. Furthermore, even when the fruits and vegetables were washed and peeled, sometimes the pesticide residue still remained.

“While researchers do not have a clear understanding of how different pesticide residues interact in the body, or how they affect human health, it has been shown that pregnant women, nursing mothers, infants and children are most at risk for exposure to pesticides,” says Amy Strutzel, a dietitian at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill. “Babies in the womb are exposed to pesticides through their mother’s diet, and mothers can expose their infants through breastfeeding. Children are exposed to pesticides because they eat more than adults in comparison to their body weight.”

More and more people are concerned by this trend, but often they cannot afford a fully organic diet. Therefore, the EWG lists and guides also provide shopping help to keep costs down while reducing pesticide intake.

Strutzel adds that pesticide residue can be reduced in foods by washing with water before it is cooked or eaten. She also says cooking can help decrease pesticide levels in foods that do not have a removable exterior.

Related Posts



  1. I went on a farm tour last year and was surprised to learn that organic does not mean chemical free. Organic farms do use chemicals, government approved chemicals. Wondering if you have any comment/insight on that or possible future article? Also, was surprised that bananas were not on the clean list since you peel them to eat… where do they fall on the list(s)?

  2. Deborah Fields

    Growing your veggies doesn’t guarantee organic either unless the veggies/fruits are heirloom. Many plants bought from a nursery are genetically modified to be disease resistant. Therefore, a pest biting into the fruit/veggie can die cutting down the need to actually spray/treat a plant with pesticides. Labels should have 100% organic listed and verified GMO free. Difficult to find, but not impossible.

Subscribe to health enews newsletter

About the Author

health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.