The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has announced its annual Dirty Dozen list, curating the top twelve types of conventional produce to avoid due to pesticide contamination. Once again, strawberries, spinach and leafy greens (like kale and collards) are the top offenders. Nectarines, apples and grapes follow, with bell peppers, cherries, peaches, pears, celery and tomatoes stacking on.
The 2022 Dirty Dozen™ is a list of the most pesticide-contaminated fresh fruits and vegetables, based on the latest tests by the Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration. Pesticide residues were found on over 70 percent of the non-organic produce tested by the USDA and FDA, continuing a problem highlighted in last year’s report. Still, the list isn’t a reason to avoid fresh food.
“Everyone should eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, no matter how they’re grown,” said EWG Toxicologist Alexis Temkin, Ph.D. “But shoppers have the right to know what potentially toxic substances are found on these foods, so they can make the best choices for their families, given budgetary and other concerns.” Recent research from Harvard University shows that consuming fruits and vegetables with high levels of pesticide residues may offset the protections eating such foods normally provides against cardiovascular disease and mortality.
Before testing fruits and vegetables, the USDA washes, scrubs and peels them as consumers would – so it’s not accurate to say that those concerned about ingesting pesticides should just wash their produce thoroughly. For the more than 70 percent of non-organic produce with detectable pesticides, nearly all of the levels fall under the legal limits allowed by government regulations.
“EWG recommends that, whenever possible, consumers purchase organic versions of Dirty Dozen produce,” said EWG Science Analyst Sydney Swanson. “Most pesticides can’t legally be applied to produce that is grown organically.”
When organic options are unavailable or unaffordable, EWG advises shoppers to buy produce from its Clean Fifteen™ . This year, almost 70 percent of Clean Fifteen samples had no detectable pesticide residues whatsoever.