Each year, the Environmental Working Group tests a variety of produce for pesticide and chemical residue, creating their annual list of the twelve most contaminated and fifteen least contaminated fruit and vegetables.

The Guide is a resource designed to help us reduce our pesticide exposures as much as possible by indicating which produce to buy organic, and which conventional products are low in pesticide residue.

Health Benefits of a Diet Low in Pesticide Residues

A French study published in December in JAMA Internal Medicine, a journal from the American Medical Association, found that among nearly 69,000 participants, those with the highest frequency of organic food consumption had 25 percent fewer cancers than individuals who did not eat organic food. In 2018, data from the Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health Environment and Reproductive Health, or EARTH, study found a surprising association among study participants between the consumption of foods high in pesticide residues and fertility problems.

These findings raise important questions about the safety of pesticide mixtures found on produce and suggest that people should focus on eating fruits and vegetables with the fewest pesticide residues. In fact, the most recent of several studies evaluating the impact of an organic diet found that after only six days of eating organic food, adults and children had on average a 60 percent reduction in the levels of synthetic pesticides measured in their urine, compared to when they were eating a conventional diet.

The study, published in February in the journal Environmental Research, found that an organic diet can reduce the levels of chlorpyrifos, a neurotoxic pesticide that can harm the brain of the developing fetus; malathion, a pesticide classified as a probable human carcinogen; and clothianidin, a neonicotinoid pesticide that can harm bees.

2019’s Dirty Dozen:

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

Each of the foods noted above tested positive for a number of different pesticide residues and contained higher concentrations of pesticides than other produce.

2019’s Clean Fifteen

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Frozen sweet peas
  5. Onions
  6. Papayas
  7. Eggplants
  8. Asparagus
  9. Kiwis
  10. Cabbages
  11. Cauliflower
  12. Cantaloupes
  13. Broccoli
  14. Mushrooms
  15. Honeydew melons

Relatively few pesticides were detected on the above foods, and tests found low total concentrations of pesticide residues.

You can read the full article, as well as more about the specific findings on the produce tested HERE.


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