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The Dirty Dozen (fruits & vegetables)

Dirty Dozen (fruits and vegetables with pesticides)

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

Frequently Asked Questions

Do all these pesticides mean I should not eat fruits and vegetables?

No, eat your fruits and vegetables! The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure. Use EWG's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides to reduce your exposures as much as possible, but eating conventionally-grown produce is far better than not eating fruits and vegetables at all.

Why should I be concerned about pesticides? 

As acknowledged by U.S. and international government agencies, different pesticides have been linked to a variety of health problems, including:

  • Nervous system toxicity
  • Cancer
  • Hormone system effects
  • Skin, eye and lung irritation
Pesticides are unique among the chemicals we release into the environment. They are designed to kill living organisms -- insects, plants, and fungi that are considered "pests." Because they are toxic by design, many pesticides pose health dangers to people, risks that have been established by independent research scientists and physicians across the world.

Should I completely avoid eating celery or blueberries or other produce items on your Dirty Dozen™ list?

No, that has never been our message in presenting the Shopper’s Guide. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables—most Americans don’t eat nearly enough. And we would certainly recommend produce from our Dirty Dozen™ list in lieu of other, less-healthy foods or snacks, like fat- or sugar-laden processed products. But with the Shopper’s Guide you can have all the benefits of eating more produce while substantially reducing dietary exposure to pesticides.

What can I do to reduce my exposure to pesticides?

You can reduce your exposure to pesticides by buying organic whenever possible. The Shopper’s Guide will help you determine which fruits and vegetables have the most pesticide residues and so are the most important to buy organic. You can lower your pesticide consumption by nearly four-fifths by avoiding the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables and instead eating the least contaminated produce, according to EWG calculations.

Should I try to buy everything organic?

EWG recommends buying organic whenever possible. Not only is it smart to reduce your exposure to pesticides, but buying organic sends a message that you support environmentally-friendly farming practices that minimize soil erosion, safeguard water quality and protect wildlife.

However, we know that organics are not accessible or affordable for everyone, so we created the Shopper’s Guide to help consumers make the healthiest choices given their circumstances.
EWG always recommends eating fruits and vegetables, even conventionally-grown, over processed foods and other less healthy alternatives.

What if I wash and peel my fruits and vegetables?

The data used to create the Guide is from produce tested as it is typically eaten. This means washed and, when applicable, peeled. For example, bananas are peeled before testing, and blueberries and peaches are washed. Because all produce has been thoroughly cleaned before analysis, washing a fruit or vegetable would not change its rank in the EWG's Shopper’s Guide (i.e. washing a conventional apple will not make it is less contaminated).

EWG has not evaluated various “produce washes” for efficacy or potentially toxicity. However, given that many pesticides are taken up by the plant as a whole and so are present not only on the skin, it is unlikely that even these products would be more effective than thorough washing at lowering pesticide levels. The safest choice is to use the Shopper’s Guide to avoid conventional versions those fruits and vegetables with the highest pesticide residues.

Where do you get the data for the Guide?

The Shopper’s Guide is based on laboratory tests done by the US Department of Agriculture Pesticide Testing Program. The program tests several kinds of foods for types and amount of pesticide residue. Signature Icon

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