Posted on by Paula Gallagher
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has released their list for the dirtiest produce on the market. And by dirtiest, they are referring to fruits and vegetables that have the most pesticide residue, also known as the Dirty Dozen™. According to EWG’s analysis of test data from the Department of Agriculture, nearly 70% of produce sold in the United States comes with pesticide residue. Consuming foods that contain pesticides has been linked to a myriad of health issues, including cancer and fertility issues.
This year EWG also looked fungicides and found that over 90% of non-organic citrus fruits contain fungicides linked to cancer and hormone disruption. In particular, the fungicide Imazalil, was detected on nearly 90% of citrus samples tested by EWG in 2020, and over 95% of tangerine samples tested by the USDA in 2019. Imazalil is considered a human carcinogen, by the World Health Organization.
The top 3 "dirtiest" fruits and vegetables remained the same as last year with strawberries topping the list, followed by spinach and kale. Collard green and mustard greens joined kale for the number three spot.
Keep in mind that all fruits and vegetables were washed and scrubbed before testing, which shows that simply washing may not be enough in some cases. Here are the key findings from this year's EWG list.
- More than 90% of samples of strawberries, apples, cherries, spinach, nectarines and leafy greens tested positive for residues of two or more pesticides.
- A single sample of kale, collard and mustard greens had up to 20 different pesticides.
- On average, spinach samples had 1.8 times as much pesticide residue by weight as any other crop tested.
- Hot peppers and bell peppers had the most pesticides detected, 115 pesticides in total and 21 more pesticides than the crops with the second highest amount – kale, collard and mustard greens.
EWG'S Dirty Dozen for 2021
- Kale, collard and mustard greens
- Bell and hot peppers
The EWG also looks at the least pesticide-ridden fruits and vegetables. In this list, almost 70% of the Clean Fifteen fruit and vegetable samples had no pesticide residues, and only 8% of the Clean Fifteen fruit and vegetable samples had two or more pesticides.
EWG'S Clean Fifteen for 2021
- Sweet corn
- Sweet peas (frozen)
- Honeydew melon
Washing produce thoroughly can help reduce the pesticide residue – although the best way to limit pesticide exposure is to choose organically grown fruits and vegetables when possible, and that is especially true for all foods on the Dirty Dozen list.
Unfortunately, organic produce can be expensive, and may not be an option for everyone. Consider filling your shopping cart with produce that was found to have the least amount of pesticide residue according to the Clean Fifteen list. Another option is to grow your own garden. This can help you cut down on harmful pesticides and chemicals, but it can also help with grocery bills and even act as a stress reliever. And if you don't have a yard, container gardens may an option.
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