These Fruits and Vegetables Are Loaded With the Most Pesticides

Buying organic fruits and veggies can be expensive. Here's when it's most — and least — worth it.

These Fruits and Vegetables Are Loaded With the Most Pesticides Photo by Dusan Petkovic /

Strawberries continue to rank as the “dirtiest” produce, at least according to one nonprofit.

The sweet summertime staple earned the No. 1 spot on the Environmental Working Group’s latest annual ranking of fruits and vegetables with the most pesticide residue. This marks the third consecutive year that strawberries topped this “Dirty Dozen” list.

More than 90 percent of strawberry samples tested positive for residue of at least one pesticide, according to EWG’s 2018 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. And one strawberry sample tested positive for residue from 22 pesticides.

Testing in California found that nearly 300 pounds of pesticide was applied to each acre of strawberry crops.

The fruits and vegetables that made the 2018 Dirty Dozen list are:

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

These are the “dirtiest” out of around 50 types of produce that EWG scrutinized this year. The group’s ranking is based on an analysis of more than 38,800 samples taken by two federal agencies, the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration.

Opposite the Dirty Dozen in the ranking is what EWG calls the “Clean Fifteen,.” which were found to have little if any pesticide residue. For example, less than 1 percent of conventional avocados had any pesticide residue.

On the 2018 Clean Fifteen list are:

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Cabbages
  5. Onions
  6. Frozen sweet peas
  7. Papayas
  8. Asparagus
  9. Mangoes
  10. Eggplants
  11. Honeydew melons
  12. Kiwi
  13. Cantaloupes
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Broccoli

EWG cites studies going back 25 years that point to various health risks associated with pesticides, particularly for children. But when you shop for the Clean Fifteen, you can reach for conventional versions over organic versions to save money without having to worry about bringing home pesticide-ridden food.

If this news is enough to make you want to try growing your own produce, check out “How to Save Money Growing Great Food in Your Garden.”

How do you decide when to buy organic versus conventionally grown produce? Share your thoughts below or on Facebook.

Karla Bowsher
Karla Bowsher
I’m a freelance journalist and former newspaper reporter who has covered both personal and public finance. I've worked for a top 50 major metro daily and a community newspaper as well as ... More


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