Is Your Favorite Vegetable in the Dirty Dozen™?

Another blogging friend to the rescue and I delve into one of my eleven texts required for the CEcD exam. Thank you Inger!

A decade ago, the non-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG) unveiled its first Shoppers Guide™ to Pesticides in Produce. The revolutionary list ranked pesticide residues in common fruits and vegetables, forever changing grocery shopping for pesticide-wary consumers. Now updated annually, the new 2014 list was unveiled last week.

The EWG list provides a ranking of 48 common fruits and vegetables based on volume and variety of pesticide residue. Apples came out the worst — especially concerning if you consider the quantities of apples and apple juice consumed by children–and avocados were rated the best. The worst 12 items on the list are dubbed the “Dirty Dozen™” and the best 15 are designated the “Clean Fifteen™.”

from the EWG website

from the EWG website


The EWG explains that this guide arose out of the concern “that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has failed to tell Americans … that they have a right to know about the risks of pesticide exposure and ways they can reduce pesticides in their diets. “

Why You Should Care About Pesticide Residue

Pesticide exposure should be on the radar for every health conscious person. According to the EPA,laboratory studies show that pesticides can cause health problems, such as birth defects, nerve damage, cancer, and other effects that might occur over a long period of time.  However, these effects depend on how toxic the pesticide is and how much of it is consumed. Some pesticides also pose unique health risks to children.”

With this information, should people avoid fruits and vegetables?

The EWG advises you to “eat your fruits and vegetables! The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure. Use EWG’s Shopper’s Guide™ to reduce your exposures as much as possible, but eating conventionally grown produce is better than not eating fruits and vegetables at all.”

How can knowing the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen help me?

One way people can use this information is to help stretch their food dollar. If your budget is tight, you might buy conventional onions to save money and splurge on the organic strawberries, since strawberries are more likely to have residues.

This can also be helpful when dining out. If offered a choice of vegetables, you may select a side of cauliflower (on the Clean Fifteen™) rather than the creamed spinach (Dirty Dozen™).

Inger's Grocery Store

Inger’s Grocery Store

I already buy organic–should I stop now for the Clean Fifteen?

Some Clean Fifteen™ items may still contain residues, so that is one factor to weigh, but my motivation for buying organic goes beyond my own health. I also like to support organic farmers and to consider the environmental impact of conventional farming. So I still chose organic as much as possible.

But for those times when organic isn’t available, convenient or affordable, I use the EWG list as my guide to healthier living.

Inger Wilkerson blogs about food, gardening, and green living at Art of Natural Living and is beginning her 20th year of CSA membership.

Leave a comment


  1. Very helpful…thank you, Tammy!

  2. This is very helpful, thanks Tammy. I’m very concerned about pesticide residue on our food xx

  3. Such a shame really that apples are on the bad list. They have so many advantages. For a fruit they keep a long time. They are more durable than many fruits. They remain fresh tasting longer. They are nutritious. They taste so good. I can get a few of them that are pesticide free (if you believe the label) but must depend on conventional apples much of the time. Such a dilemma. — Dan

  4. Shared on Slurrpy page on fb 🙂 Very interesting Tammy.

  5. Apples, how sad. We eat them. I always peel them, at least. Thanks for the information. Blessings to you, Tammy…

  6. Sally

     /  May 4, 2014

    I have been doing a bit of research myself, on apples after learning that many countries in Europe are banning our U.S. apples. It is absurd that this practice is continuing of toxic pesticides being used when we know they are links to childhood disease such as leukemia .
    Thank you for this reminder and mindfulness, Tammy. It was timely.

  7. Thank you for sharing this. It’s disappointing to see that apples are still at the top of the list, because of the reasons you mentioned (children’s intake of apples in various forms) and because it has been 25 years since Meryl Streep testified in front of Congress about the dangers of pesticides on apples, backed by data from the Natural Resources Defense Foundation. I agree with the idea of buying organic produce whenever we can.

  8. these are important lists, as there are unexpected fruits and veggies on both. Now more than ever, it is critical to eat organic. hope all is well, Tammy. We’ve missed you here!

  9. Great tips in here, thanks for sharing this blog. Best of luck with your studies!

  10. Fresh

     /  May 5, 2014

    Great post. My family has found the EWG info very helpful as we try to eat organic affordably. Wouldn’t it be nice if one day (soon) organic became the “conventional” way to grow our food!

  11. Thank you, Tammy! this was such an informative helpful post! ☺️

  12. Lisa H

     /  May 5, 2014

    Using the list has really helped me keep within my budget but also making sure we eat as few pesticides as possible. Often I am able to buy “pesticide free” at the farmer’s market. Having the organic label can be costly to small farms, so they will often label their produce as “pesticide free” or “naturally grown.”
    Great post…thanks for sharing!

  13. Thank you for this enlightening list. I’m ver conscious to buy organic but good to know which ones are important.

  14. Thanks for posting this, Tammy. As I read it, I kept singing “Big Yellow Taxi” to myself…”Give me spots on my apples/But leave me the birds and the bees/Please!”

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  16. We live below apple farming country and you can tell when they are spraying! I buy organic where possible to make it more likely more farmers will start growing that way 🙂

  17. Abby's Kitchen

     /  May 7, 2014

    Great post! Shared it on fb. I’m sure you don’t mind 😉

  18. OMG, what an eye-opener. Thank you, Tammy. I’m especially concerned to read about apples, since Dave tends to eat them by the “Dirty Dozen”. Best I explore organic options!

  19. 1. It’s so easy to buy and not consider what is on your produce – or what better choices you have.

    2. As a father to three girls, I want to be much more aware of what I’m giving them. I have one girl who is 16; I also want to model good shopping for her.

    3. I wish we could all just grow what we need in our backyard. And trade with the neighbors.

  20. Now planning huge tranches of avocado-based recipes! Thanks for an informative post!

  21. Helpful and appreciated. Thanks!

  22. It’s just dismaying how humankind ruins everything “good.”

  23. Thanks for the info. I knew strawberries were bad but I didn’t know that apples were so bad. I try to buy organic and will make an even greater effort.


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