Do You Know the "Dirty Dozen?"

Organic apples Photo credit: Gudlyf, on Flickr

[Ed.: This article has been updated using the EWG's 2013 report, which adds two new "plus" vegetables to the Dirty Dozen this year. These do not not meet the Dirty Dozen criteria, but are commonly contaminated with pesticides toxic to the nervous system.]

As much as we would all like to shop organically, sometimes it can be expensive. If you’re on a limited food budget, you may have to pick and choose which organic produce to purchase. Fortunately, The Environmental Work Group has developed two lists to help you with your shopping choices. The first is the dreaded “Dirty Dozen,” a collective of conventionally grown fruits and vegetables that contain high levels of pesticides and should be avoided if you are interested in keeping your pesticide levels low:

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Cherry tomatoes
  4. Cucumbers
  5. Grapes
  6. Hot peppers
  7. Nectarines – imported
  8. Peaches
  9. Potatoes
  10. Spinach
  11. Strawberries 
  12. Sweet bell peppers

Plus: 

  • Kale/collard greens
  • Summer squash

The top three on this list are the most egregious offenders with 98% of all apples sold in the U.S. containing pesticides. For example, celery has been shown to contain up to 57 different pesticides.

Genetically modified (GMO) crops are not commonly found as fresh produce, more often instead used in commodity or prepared foods, so they are not included in the list.

The flip side of the “Dirty Dozen” is the “Clean 15.” These items contain the lowest amounts of pesticides and are therefore fine for buying conventionally grown produce if you so choose.

  1. Aparagus
  2. Avocado
  3. Cabbage
  4. Cantaloupe
  5. Corn
  6. Eggplant
  7. Grapefruit
  8. Kiwi
  9. Mangoes
  10. Mushrooms
  11. Onions
  12. Papayas
  13. Pineapples
  14. Sweet peas - frozen
  15. Sweet potatoes

Want to have this list on the go? Donate a small amount to the EWG to get the complete guide to print and keep in your wallet, or download the iPhone app or the Android app for your smart phone.