Dirty Dozen: Which fruits, vegetables contain the most pesticides?

Nation and World News

Sellers Nicola, right, and Mimmo wearing protective mask work in their fruits and vegetables shop at Milan’s Bonola market, Italy, Friday, May 8, 2020. The municipality of Milan reopened local markets Thursday, as the city is slowly returning to life after the long shutdown due to the coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

(WFXR) — Spring is approaching and that means dining on fresh fruits and vegetables is just around the corner.

To help you decide which to choose, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has listed its annual “Dirty Dozen” of fruits and vegetables that contain the highest traces of pesticides.

For the 2021 list, EWG looked at 46 items that were contaminated with more pesticides than other crops, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Whether organic or conventionally grown, fruits and vegetables are critical components of a healthy diet,” the group said. “However, many crops contain potentially harmful pesticides, even after washing, peeling or scrubbing, which the USDA does before testing each item.”

The EWG found that almost 70% of the non-organic fresh produce sold in the United States contains potentially harmful chemical pesticide residues.

Key findings in the study include:

  • More than 90% of samples of strawberries, apples, cherries, spinach, nectarines and leafy greens tested positive for residue of two or more pesticides.
  • A single sample of kale, collard and mustard greens showed up to 20 different pesticides.
  • Spinach, on average, had 1.8 times as much pesticide residue, by weight, as any other crop tested.
  • Hop and bell peppers had the most pesticides detected (115 in total) and 21 more than the crops with the second-highest amount (kale, collard and mustard greens).
Palestinians pick strawberries at a farm, in Beit Lahyia, northern Gaza Strip, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

Here is the list of the Dirty Dozen:

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale, collard and mustard greens
  4. Nectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Cherries
  8. Peaches
  9. Pears
  10. Bell and hot peppers
  11. Celery
  12. Tomatoes

The EWG also listed its “Clean Fifteen,” spotlighting fruits and vegetables with the lowest traces of pesticides.

Key findings in this part of EWG’s study include:

  • Avocados and sweet corn were the cleanest with fewer than 2% of samples showing any detectable pesticides.
  • The first seven Clean Fifteen crops — avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, onions, papaya, sweet peas and eggplant — tested positive for three or fewer pesticides on a single sample.
  • Almost 70% of Clean Fifteen fruit and vegetable samples had no residue of pesticide.
  • Multiple pesticide residues are extremely rare on Clean Fifteen vegetables. Only 8% of Clean Fifteen fruit and vegetable samples had two or more pesticides.
This Oct. 1, 2019 photo shows recently harvested avocados at an orchard near Ziracuaretiro, Michoacan state, Mexico. The region’s avocado boom, fueled by soaring U.S. consumption, has drawn parts of western Mexico out of poverty in just 10 years. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

Here is the list of the Clean Fifteen:

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapple
  4. Onions
  5. Papaya
  6. Sweet peas (frozen)
  7. Eggplant
  8. Asparagus
  9. Broccoli
  10. Cabbage
  11. Kiwi
  12. Cauliflower
  13. Mushrooms
  14. Honeydew melon
  15. Cantaloupes

To view the full list of fruits and vegetables tested, and how they read, click here.

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