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Pesticides in produce: The top 12 ‘dirtiest’ fruits and vegetables

Produce at a farmer's market. The Environmental Working Group's 2023 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™ has a new frontrunner this year and two new items joining the top 12 list of dirtiest fruits and vegetables. (WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Environmental Working Group’s 2023 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce has a new frontrunner this year and two new items joining the top 12 list of dirtiest fruits and vegetables.

The Shopper’s Guide breaks down testing from the Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration. The 2023 guide represents the results of testing done on 46,569 samples of 46 fruits and vegetables.

EWG reports the research found that 75% of non-organic produce in the U.S. contained some level of pesticides.

“Any exposure to pesticides is a problem, given what we know about several ways they can harm humans,” the group said.

Strawberries have been a regular member of the undesirable list, this year coming in at No. 1. Blueberries and green beans are new additions.

EWG’s 2023 Dirty Dozen:

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

EWG notes that 90% of the strawberries, apples, cherries, spinach, nectarines and grapes tested positive for residues of two or more pesticides. It also found:

  • 210 pesticides found among the ‘dirtiest dozen’
  • All produce on the Dirty Dozen had as little as 13 but as many as 23 different types of pesticides
  • Kale, collard, and mustard greens as well as hot peppers and bell peppers, had the most pesticides detected of any crop

As EWG notes, the USDA scrubs and cleans produce before testing. The FDA only cleans off the dirt. Still, testing after these methods found traces of 251 different pesticides.

Along with the Dirty Dozen, EWG also released the Clean Fifteen:

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

Some more positive takeaways come from the Clean Fifteen List: EWG reports nearly 65% showed no detectable residues, less than 2% of avocados and sweet corn samples showed detectable pesticides, and no sample from the top six tested positive for more than three pesticides.