And 2018′s Dirtiest Produce Award Goes To…

It’s that time of year again, the time when the Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases its annual Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists, based on crop pesticide tests conducted by the USDA.

The whole point of these annual lists is to help consumers make informed decision about when it’s wise to spend more on organic produce, and when conventional is a reasonably healthy option. So, without further ado…

EWG’s 2018 Dirty Dozen List

The Dirty Dozen are the fruits and veggies that you should always try to buy organic, as they tend to have the highest amounts of pesticide residue, even after rinsing.

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Nectarines
  4. Apples
  5. Grapes
  6. Peaches
  7. Cherries
  8. Pears
  9. Tomatoes
  10. Celery
  11. Potatoes
  12. Sweet bell peppers

+Hot peppers

Yet again the delicious strawberry tops the list for dirtiest produce. According to the EWG, over 98 percent of strawberry samples were contaminated with pesticides. In fact, one sample of strawberry tested positive for 20 different types of pesticides!

Organic strawberries can be expensive, but if you care about reducing harmful pesticide consumption (which can seriously affect reproductive health in both men and women), they are worth the cost.

Hot Peppers are the Dirty Thirteenth

This year, EWG also included a “13th” addition on the list: hot peppers. While hot peppers don’t quite meet the criteria for the Dirty Dozen, the insecticides found on hot peppers are highly toxic to our nervous systems.

These insecticides are actually banned from use on many crops. The EWG confirmed that nearly 75 percent of hot peppers contained these toxic residues. If you cannot find/buy organic, cooking hot peppers significantly reduces their chemical load.

Otherwise, 2018′s Dirty Dozen list is very similar to last year’s, so no need to shift your shopping habits much if you’ve already memorized last year’s list.

Fruits and vegetables large overhead colorful mix green to red

EWG’s 2018 Clean Fifteen List

Ah, the cleanest crops in your local grocery store, the Clean Fifteen. These foods are generally pretty safe to buy conventional in order to save money.

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn*
  3. Pineapple
  4. Cabbage
  5. Onion
  6. Frozen sweet peas
  7. Papayas*
  8. Asparagus
  9. Mangoes
  10. Eggplants
  11. Honeydew melons
  12. Kiwis
  13. Cantaloupes
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Broccoli

This year, grapefruit was nudged off the list and replaced by broccoli. Avocados took the spot for food with the least pesticide residue, overtaking sweet corn.

The EWG also placed asterisks next to sweet corn and papaya to highlight that these crops are often genetically engineered (along with summer squash and zucchini), and suggests that consumers looking to avoid GMOs should always buy these foods organic, regardless of their low pesticide load.

Spraying pesticides on crops

Additional Findings to Note

  • Nearly 70 percent of conventional produce samples tested positive for pesticide residue.
  • 230 total different types of pesticides or pesticide byproducts were identified on the thousands of produce samples.
  • Spinach samples, the 2nd dirtiest crop, had 1.8 times more pesticide residue by weight than any other crop tested.
  • Over 98 percent of crops found at the top of the Dirty Dozen list tested positive for at least one pesticide.
  • Less than 1 percent of avocado and sweet corn samples tested positive for pesticide residue.

All food samples tested were prepared as they would be for consumption. Foods with a thick skin were peeled and thin-skinned foods were rinsed.

Here is the full EWG ranking for all 48 crops they tested, in order from most contaminated with pesticide residue to least contaminated.

Related on Care2

Images via Thinkstock.


Naomi D
Naomi D3 months ago


Marija M
Marija Mohoric5 months ago


Maria P
Martha P5 months ago

thank you

Ruth S
Ruth S5 months ago


Tania N
Tania N5 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

Tania N
Tania N5 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

Marie W
Marie W6 months ago

Thank you for posting.

Cindy S
Cindy Smith10 months ago


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Christine Stewart10 months ago


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Past Member 10 months ago