The 12 Worst Fruits and Vegetables for Pesticide Residue

Woman shopping for groceries
Photo by Rocketclips, Inc. / Shutterstock.com

Strawberries 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 — the “Dirty Dozen” list.

More than 90% of strawberry samples tested positive for residue of at least two pesticides, according to the EWG’s 2020 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. And one strawberry sample tested positive for residue from 23 pesticides.

And strawberries are far from alone. At least 90% of samples of nectarines, apples and cherries also had residues of two or more pesticides.

The fruits and vegetables that made the 2020 Dirty Dozen list are:

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

These are the “dirtiest” out of 47 types of produce that the EWG scrutinized this year. The group’s ranking is based on an analysis of more than 43,700 samples taken by two federal agencies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration.

The Dirty Dozen traditionally includes only fresh produce. But the EWG looked at raisins anyway this year because the USDA recently tested raisins for the first time since 2007. It turns out raisins would rank No. 1 on the Dirty Dozen if it were not limited to fresh produce. The EWG explains:

“Almost every sample of non-organic raisins tested – 99 percent – had residues of at least two pesticides. On the 2020 Dirty Dozen, raisins would rank worst of all fruits tested, including strawberries, nectarines, apples and cherries, all of which had residues of two or more pesticides on at least 90 percent of samples.”

Opposite the Dirty Dozen in the ranking is what the EWG calls the “Clean Fifteen,” which were found to have the lowest amounts of pesticide residue. For example, less than 2% of conventional avocados and sweet corn had any pesticide residue.

The 2020 Clean Fifteen are:

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapple
  4. Onions
  5. Papayas
  6. Sweet peas (frozen)
  7. Eggplants
  8. Asparagus
  9. Cauliflower
  10. Cantaloupes
  11. Broccoli
  12. Mushrooms
  13. Cabbage
  14. Honeydew melons
  15. Kiwi fruit

The EWG cites multiple studies that point to various health risks associated with pesticides, particularly for children.

If this news is enough to make you want to try growing your own produce, check out “How to Start a Garden to Save Money on Food.”

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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