Eat Your Fruits and Vegetables: New Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen List Released

Crates of strawberries

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Here is is the 2020 ranking of pesticide residue on produce.

In this year’s annual Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that once again strawberries were the fresh produce item most likely to be contaminated with pesticide residues. And that's even after they are picked, rinsed in the field and washed at home. Previous years have found that, based on USDA data, about one-third of the strawberry samples tested contained 10 or more pesticide residues and breakdown products. One strawberry sample was riddled with 23 pesticide residues.

Thankfully, we can opt for organic strawberries, as well as organic versions of all 12 produce items that the health and consumer watchdog has listed in their Dirty Dozen list for 2020. And since organic produce may be more expensive or hard to find everywhere, EWG also makes the brilliant move to list those items with the least pesticide residue as well so that we know what conventional produce is ok to consume. For example, they found that fewer than 2 percent of conventional avocados tested positive for pesticides. So, buy organic strawberries if you can, but worry less about buying organic avocados.

“For many Americans, choosing an all-organic diet is not possible," says Dr. Philip Landrigan, a pediatrician and epidemiologist. "So using EWG’s guide can help give consumers the tools to provide their families with a mix of both conventional and organic fruits and veggies without the pesticide punch.”

Given that we are in the midst of a pandemic, it may be just enough to get any fresh produce – but if you have choices, let this guide help. Also, as EWG points out,

It is important to know that there is no evidence people can be exposed [to the coronavirus] through food. The spread pattern for coronavirus is quite different from those of foodborne pathogens like salmonella and E.coli. That is why, even though the risks of COVID-19 are serious, consumers should continue eating plenty of healthy fruits and vegetables, whether they are conventional or organic.

All of EWG's analysis is based on the most recent tests by the USDA. You can read more about the health concerns around pesticides and other key findings at EWG.

The Clean Fifteen for 2020

Here are the conventional items that had the least amount of pesticide residues; Number One being the least contaminated. Eat these with abandon.

1. Avocados

2. Sweet corn*

3. Pineapple

4. Onions

5. Papaya*

6. Sweet peas (frozen)

7. Eggplants

8. Asparagus

9. Cauliflower

10. Cantaloupes

11. Broccoli

12. Mushrooms

13. Cabbage

14. Honeydew melon

15. Kiwi

*Some sweet corn and papaya in the U.S. is grown from genetically modified seeds; so if you want to avoid that, purchase organic varieties.

The Dirty Dozen for 2020

Here are the conventional items to buy organic when you can, Number One being the most contaminated.

1. Strawberries

2. Spinach

3. Kale

4. Nectarines

5. Apples

6. Grapes

7. Peaches

8. Cherries

9. Pears

10. Tomatoes

11. Celery

12. Potatoes