Top 12 Toxic Fruits and Vegetables

Would you like a mouthful of pesticides with your peach? If you’re eating non-organic peaches, that’s what you may well be getting. According to the 2011 edition of Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides, the majority of conventional peaches contain two or more pesticide residues; in fact, peaches as a group rack up a combination of up to 57 separate pesticides. Pesticides can be extremely toxic to human health and the environment. Both U.S. and international government agencies have linked pesticides to nervous system toxicity, cancer, hormone system disruption and IQ deficits among children.

Each year Environmental Working Group analyzes nearly 100,000 produce pesticide reports from the USDA and the FDA to determine what fruits and vegetables contain the highest (the “Dirty Dozen”) and lowest (the “Clean 15″) amounts of chemical residue. The information is presented in a handy shopper’s guide. I love this list, it is so practical and puts the ability to eat safely in everybody’s hands. It’s a brilliant workaround.

Shoppers can use the list in two ways:

• If you are unable to buy organic produce, for whatever reason, avoid the Dirty Dozen and instead opt for the Clean 15.

• If you can buy limited organic produce, purchase organically-grown items from the Dirty Dozen, and continue buying non-organic selections from the Clean 15.

Of course, in a perfect place we wouldn’t be contending with pesticides at all – but given this wonky world, at least we have some tools to help navigate around the n-methyl carbamates and organophosphate pesticides. (Did you know that some of the most commonly used pesticides today were originally derived from nerve gasses developed during World War II? Fun fact. Ugh.)

Anyway, by avoiding the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables, you can lower your pesticide consumption by nearly 92 percent. Here’s where to start, number 1 being the most contaminated.

The Dirty Dozen: Buy these organic

1. Apples
97.8 percent of all samples tested positive for pesticides; 92 percent of apples contained 2 or more pesticide residues. As a category. apples have been treated with the second-highest number of pesticides registering combinations of up to 56 different chemicals.

2. Celery
96 percent of all celery samples tested positive for pesticides. Nearly 90 percent of celery samples contained multiple pesticide; a single celery sample was contaminated with 13 different chemicals.

3. Strawberries
Strawberries had 13 different pesticides detected on a single sample.

4. Peaches
85.6 percent of peach samples contained 2 or more pesticide residues. As a category, peaches have been treated with more pesticides than any other produce, registering combinations of up to 57 different chemicals.

5. Spinach

6. Nectarines (imported)
Every sample of imported nectarines tested positive for pesticides, 90.8 percent contained 2 or more pesticide residues.
The Dirty Dozen continued: Buy these organic

7. Grapes (imported)
Imported grapes had 14 pesticides detected on a single sample; domestic grapes had 13 different pesticides detected on a single sample.

8. Sweet bell peppers
Nearly 69.4 percent of sweet bell pepper samples contained multiple pesticide. A single sweet bell pepper sample was contaminated with 11 different chemicals.

9. Potatoes
91.4  percent all potato samples tested positive for pesticides.

10. Blueberries (domestic)

11. Lettuce

12. Kale/collard greens
A single kale/collards sample was contaminated with 11 different chemicals. As a group, greens had been treated with as many as 66 pesticides.

The Clean 15: Lowest in pesticide residue

The vegetables least likely to test positive for pesticides are listed here, number one being the cleanest. According to EWG: asparagus, sweet corn and onions had no detectable pesticide residues on 90 percent or more of samples. More than four-fifths of cabbage samples (81.8 percent)  had no detectible pesticides, followed by sweet peas (77.1 percent) and eggplant (75.4 percent). Of the low-pesticide vegetables, no single sample had more than 5 different chemicals.

1. Onions
2. Sweet Corn
3. Pineapples
4. Avocado
5. Asparagus
6. Sweet peas
7. Mangoes
8. Eggplant
9. Cantaloupe (domestic)
10. Kiwi
11. Cabbage
12. Watermelon
13. Sweet potatoes
14. Grapefruit
15. Mushrooms

Go to the EWG site to read more and to download a printable shopping list.

How Many Fruits and Vegetables Do You Need Daily?
10 of the World’s Strangest Fruits
Toxic Pesticide Approved for Strawberries in CA

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Dave C.
Dave C.2 years ago

thanks....found the link now.....will have to make it work

Dave C.
Dave C.2 years ago

thanks, we need this on a pocket/wallet card....

Mia Reh
Mia Reh2 years ago

Goot to know. I buy my fresh vegetables and fruits from farmers markets.

Nils Anders Lunde


Shanti S.
S S.2 years ago

Thank you.

Elena T.
Elena Poensgen2 years ago

Thank you :)

Esther Benten
Esther Benten2 years ago

I mean a Dutch tv-programme: (it's in Dutch)

Esther Benten
Esther Benten2 years ago

Sorry Karen, but you can't wash of the pesticides. They are inside the fruits too.
In a Dutch program they compared the peels of an organic lemon, a not washed lemon and a washed/cleaned lemon. Their was not much difference in what they found on the 'regular' ones (a long list of pesticides and stuff). The organic lemon was really clean.

Karen Friedman
Mrs. Friedman2 years ago

The heading is very misleading. They are only toxic if they are not cleaned properly. Also if they are organic they get a clean bill of heath. Try to avoid misleading terms about fruits and veggies that are so good for one's health and well being! Organic is the way to avoid all the poisons in our food.

Constantina Christaki

sad to know this!