The Environmental Working Group releases a guide about pesticides in produce every year. The guide includes the Dirty Dozen, which features 12 fruits and vegetables with the most residual pesticides based on results from more than 35,200 samples of produce tested by the US Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration.
EWG came up with this ranking by looking at different measures of pesticide contamination, including the average number of pesticides found in a sample and the percentage of samples with two or more detectable pesticides. Here's the list of fruits and vegetables with the most pesticide contamination:
2017's Dirty Dozen
The fruits and veggies with the most residual pesticides are the following: potatoes, sweet bell peppers, tomatoes, celery, grapes, cherries, pears, peaches, apples, nectarines, spinach, strawberries.
This year's Dirty Dozen added pears (#6) and potatoes (#12), which knocked cherry tomatoes and cucumbers off the list.
According to EWG, 98% strawberry, spinach, peach, nectarine, cherry, and apple samples tested positive for residue of at least one pesticide. The biggest offender was strawberries; a single sample showed 20 different pesticides. Whoa.
What can you do to reduce consumption of pesticides?
There's no need to give up fruits and vegetables completely. The best thing to do is to avoid the fruits and vegetables on the Dirty Dozen list and eat produce from the bottom of the ranking.
However, if you really can't live without strawberries and spinach, EWG recommends buying organic. If a food is labeled organic, it means the USDA recognizes that the food was "produced without synthetic chemicals or fertilizers, genetic engineering, radiation or sewage sludge." Although buying organic produce may be more expensive, but it might be worth it. So I guess you've got to pick your battles.