Does the Produce You Buy Belong to the Dirty Dozen™ List?

Over the past decade or so, there has been a major increase in the demand for organic everything, from milk to produce to clothing and even cosmetics. And, even though organic products cost more than regular ones, people seem to be ready to spend on it, probably because they feel that these products are safer for them and their families, especially when it comes to fresh produce.

Organic Produce and the Dirty Dozen™

The main reason that is driving people to pick organic produce is the use of pesticides on fruits and vegetables. Though these pesticides are used to protect the crops from pest infestations and weeds, constant consumption may not be safe.

As consumers, we all have the right to know what goes into the food we eat and to help us with that, since 1995, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit organization, has been analyzing non-organic produce and publishing a list to show those with the maximum pesticide residue.

According to the EWG, they analyze over 38,000 samples and use the following measures to come up with a final list for the consumers:

  • Percentage of samples that show the presence of pesticides
  • Percentage of samples with multiple pesticides
  • Average number of pesticides in a single sample
  • Average pesticides found in parts per million
  • Maximum number of pesticides found in a single sample
  • Total number of pesticides found in a crop

The Dirty Dozen™ for 2018

According to the EWG, one sample of strawberries had over 20 different pesticides and some spinach samples had 1.8 times pesticide residue by weight than other samples. Overall, more than 98 percent of the samples of peaches, nectarines, apples and cherries among other produce had remnants of at least one pesticide type.

Here’s the list for this year:

  1. Spinach
  2. Strawberries
  3. Grapes
  4. Apples
  5. Nectarines
  6. Peaches
  7. Celery
  8. Tomatoes
  9. Cherries
  10. Pears
  11. Potatoes
  12. Bell peppers
  13. Cherry tomatoes
  14. Snap peas
  15. Blueberries

Along with the Dirty Dozen™ list, the EWG also presents a list of the Clean Fifteen™, which have none to negligible amounts of pesticide residues. These include cabbage, pineapples, frozen peas, sweet corn, papaya, asparagus, mangoes, honeydew melons and kiwis. They found that avocados and sweet corn were the cleanest of the lot with less than one percent of pesticide residues.

While many consumers find this list useful, there are others who are scared away by the information. The EWG, however, claims that they present this list only to spread awareness. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chips in by saying that 99.5 percent of the produce we get here have pesticide levels that are well below the recommended safe levels. Hence, weigh in on the available information and take the final call on whether to buy organic or non-organic produce hereon.


Environmental Working Group. (n.d.). EWG’s 2018 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™. Retrieved from

Kubala, J. (2018, September 5). The Dirty Dozen: 12 Foods That Are High in Pesticides. Retrieved September 28, 2018, from Email&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=generalhealth-cta-a&utm_content=2018-09-27