Choose Wisely


Pesticides in Produce: Shopper’s Guide Lists Most and Least Contaminated Fruits, Vegetables

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit environmental health organization, released the 2023 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce on Wednesday.

The research revealed that almost 75 percent of non-organic fresh produce sold nationwide contains residues of potentially harmful pesticides.

The EWG uses the data to create two lists: the “Dirty Dozen” includes the fruits and vegetables that are most contaminated with pesticides, and the “Clean Fifteen” consist of produce with the lowest levels of contamination.

The idea is to help consumers make informed produce choices at the grocery store.

EWG’s Dirty Dozen

Each year, a rotating list of produce is tested by USDA staffers who wash, peel, or scrub fruits and vegetables as consumers would before the food is examined for 251 different pesticides.

Your Health Matters

This year, blueberries and green beans have joined the list of produce with the most pesticides, while strawberries and spinach continue to hold the top two spots on the Dirty Dozen.
2023 Dirty Dozen
  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale, Collard, and Mustard Greens
  4. Peaches
  5. Pears
  6. Nectarines
  7. Apples
  8. Grapes
  9. Bell and Hot Peppers
  10. Cherries
  11. Blueberries
  12. Green Beans

According to the report, a total of 210 pesticides were found on the 12 foods. Kale, collard greens, and mustard greens had up to 103 different pesticides on them, the most of any crop, followed by hot and bell peppers at 101.

For blueberries, about 80 percent of samples tested contained two or more pesticides; and on green beans, the EWG detected 84 different pesticides.

“Some of the USDA’s tests show traces of pesticides long since banned by the Environmental Protection Agency. Much stricter federal regulation and oversight of these chemicals is needed,” the report said.

Experts say that exposure to food with pesticides can be harmful, especially for children and pregnant women.

“Pesticide exposure during pregnancy may lead to an increased risk of birth defects, low birth weight, and fetal death,” the American Academy of Pediatrics noted. “Exposure in childhood has been linked to attention and learning problems, as well as cancer.”

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