List of most + least contaminated produce to buy organic or not!

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has released their 2013 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, and listed the Dirty Dozen– top fruits and veggies you should buy organic, and Clean Fifteen– those that are safer to buy conventional.


Avoiding the most contaminated produce will allow you to lower your pesticide intake dramatically! EWG analyzed the pesticide residue data from the USDA to come up with the lists, and shockingly, the data used was from produce washed and peeled- of course not washing your produce properly would mean your pesticide rates are even higher!


I’m not surprised apples top the list of the most contaminated because unless I am eating a well washed organic apple, I get an instant allergic reaction from the pesticides on the apple- my mouth starts burning, which is why I always buy organic apples (unless I’m indulging on unidentified apple pie).


For me and my family, I choose organic when possible, but within budget. I try to buy organic for The Dirty Dozen, and cost-effective ones like carrots. But I am ok with eating conventional when I’m eating out, or if they’re on the Clean 15. For instance, I eat avocados a lot, and don’t buy those organic, because I can’t find great organic ones, and they’re really expensive. And I eat so many of them that I’m getting plenty of nutrients.


Here is the Dirty Dozen + Clean Fifteen infographic (for the full list of the top 51 fruits and vegetables and their ranking, scroll down):



Though there has been much debate about whether organic produce is really more nutritious than conventionally grown, the newest studies are finding that organic does indeed mean more nutrient-dense foods. Which means you’d have to eat more conventional produce to get the same amount of nutrients.


A new Brazilian study showed that organically grown tomatoes have 55% higher concentrations of vitamin C and 140% plant phenols (anti-oxidant compounds like lycopene that protect against heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other chronic illnesses) than conventionally grown tomatoes.ย This is despite the fact that the organic tomatoes were 40 percent smaller than conventional ones. Bigger isn’t always better!


Whether or not organic is more nutritious in every case, the main issue are pesticides. Pesticides are meant to be toxic and kill insects, plants and pests. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that pesticides are dangerous to your health and can cause:

  • brain and nervous system toxicity
  • cancer
  • hormone disruption
  • skin, eye and lung irritation


The benefits of organic food, in terms of pesticide exposure, are greatest for pregnant women, young children and people with chronic health problems. Studies that looked at blood pesticide levels of pregnant women and then followed their children for several years, showed that women with the highest pesticide levels during pregnancy gave birth to children who later tested 4 to 7 percent lower on I.Q. tests compared with their elementary school peers.


Another important reason to buy organic is promoting environmental and social sustainability. Buying organic supports environmentally friendly farming practices that minimize soil erosion, safeguard workers and protect water quality and wildlife.


But don’t forget to talk to your farmers at local farmers markets, because a lot of them are using organic farming methods, but have not obtained the USDA organic certification, for cost, size, or age reasons.


Remember that if you can’t afford or find organic fruits and vegetables for at least the Dirty Dozen, eating conventional ones is healthier than not eating any!


Full List of produce ranked in order of pesticide contamination:

(starting with the most contaminated)

  1. Apples
  2. Strawberries
  3. Grapes
  4. Celery
  5. Peaches
  6. Spinach
  7. Sweet bell peppers
  8. Nectarines- imported
  9. Cucumbers
  10. Potatoes
  11. Cherry tomatoes
  12. Hot peppers
  13. Blueberries- domestic
  14. Lettuce
  15. Snap peas- imported
  16. Kale/collard greens
  17. Cherries
  18. Nectarines- domestic
  19. Pears
  20. Plums
  21. Raspberries
  22. Blueberries- imported
  23. Carrots
  24. Green beans
  25. Tangerines
  26. Summer squash
  27. Broccoli
  28. Winter squash
  29. Green onions
  30. Snap peas- domestic
  31. Oranges
  32. Tomatoes
  33. Honeydew melon
  34. Cauliflower
  35. Bananas
  36. Watermelon
  37. Mushrooms
  38. Sweet potatoes
  39. Cantaloupe
  40. Grapefruit
  41. Kiwi
  42. Eggplant
  43. Asparagus
  44. Mangos
  45. Papayas
  46. Sweet peas frozen
  47. Cabbage
  48. Avocados
  49. Pineapples
  50. Onions
  51. Sweet corn


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  1. I’m curious as to why EWG didn’t put corn under the dirty dozen–GMO laden corn is a big, big concern. I follow Occupy Monsanto on Facebook, and some of the stuff they share is alarming in regard to corn.

  2. You’re right that corn is GMO unless it’s organic, same for soy. However, EWG was testing for pesticide levels, not for GMOs. Ironically, I think that some genetically modified produce requires less pesticides, because it is bred to be more resistant to pests. To avoid GMOs you should buy corn and soy products organic when possible. Having said that I eat tortilla chips in restaurants quite a bit and I know they’re not!

  3. This was a good list. I also buy organic when possible. The GRAPES are the killer for me. Organic apples, affordable. Grapes, FORGET IT! I will bite the cost bullet moving forward and make sure I get those organic. Ridiculous the price of produce. Really ridiculous. I avoid non organic corn at all costs because of the GMOs. I read in Europe all GMO products need to have a label bc there are ties to producing cancer cells in lab animals. The U.S. stinks by not giving us those same options. Don’t get me wrong, I will eat it if I’m out or no other organic alternative, like I can’t find organic hard shell tacos near me, but when I can avoid I totally do. Thanks for sharing!

    1. thanks, i’m glad it’s useful. i know, the corn is so annoying. i love corn tortillas, but the organic ones suck. the really good ones taste wise are the real Mexican ones. so whatever, i eat them. i just started eating organic avocados since i feed her avocados. before that i always got conventional because of the cost. it’s just ridiculous. and then half of them go brown anyway! i hear you on the grapes. that was my big pregnancy craving. every evening i had almost an entire bushel of organic grapes. haven’t had any since…

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