Every year, the Environmental Working Group releases what they call their “Dirty Dozen,” a list outlining the fruits and vegetables that contain the highest levels of pesticide residue for that year. Conversely, they also compile a list of those containing the lowest levels of pesticide residue, called the “Clean Fifteen”. These lists are based on testing conducted annually by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration, which sample over 46,000 crops in order to conduct their research. All produce is washed and peeled before testing, in order to best imitate how people would eat them at home. And while buying all organic produce is certainly best, it’s not necessarily realistic for a majority of the population. So, EWG’s goal with these lists is to provide a consumer guide for which produce is best to buy organic and which is ok to buy non-organic. They stress that eating fruits and vegetables is the most important thing, whether or not they’re organic or conventionally grown.
We’ll start with the good news: topping the list for cleanest produce are avocados, sweet corn and pineapple. In fact, almost 70% of the samples from the Clean Fifteen showed no pesticide residues whatsoever. In addition, only 8% of fruits and vegetables on the list had traces of two or more pesticides.
And now for the bad news: top offenders in the Dirty Dozen are non-organic (or conventional) strawberries, spinach and leafy greens (kale, collard and mustard green). In fact, according to Treehugger’s breakdown of the list, “the report reveals that over 90% of samples of conventional strawberries, apples, cherries, spinach, nectarines and leafy greens tested positive for residues of two or more pesticides, and a single sample of kale, collard and mustard greens had up to 20 different pesticides. Spinach was particularly bad, with 1.8 times on average as much pesticide residue by weight as any other crop tested.” Hot and bell peppers grabbed the prize for most pesticide appearances with 115 pesticides in total detected.
Aside from the lists themselves, this year’s report focused particularly on the presence of fungicides linked to hormone disruption and cancer on non-organic citrus fruits. And while researchers anticipated that fungicides would be prevalent, they were “surprised to see average levels more than 20 times the level EWG scientists recommend to protect children from increased cancer risk.” Read the full lists to get a more comprehensive idea of what to start buying organic (if you don’t already).
As we’ve mentioned here before, grapes are among the most heavily sprayed crops in existence, so it’s no surprise they appear as #6 on the Dirty Dozen. However, we do feel the need to point out that these are likely table grapes and not wine grapes. In fact, wine grapes are even more heavily sprayed with chemical pesticides than table grapes, though their purpose is usually not for consuming whole, which would explain their absence from this list. This is one of the many reasons we here at OWC believe in our cause so deeply. All our wines are grown with certified organic grapes which in turn get made into safer wine-and more delicious, in our opinion! Visit our store to shop our selection of organic wines.
View the full Dirty Dozen here.
View the full Clean Fifteen here.
Martinko, K. (2021, March 17). Dirty Dozen List Reveals Produce with Most Pesticide Residue. Treehugger. https://www.treehugger.com/ewg-dirty-dozen-clean-fifteen-lists-5116356