The Dirty Dozen: For the Environmental Working Group (EWG), that’s the 12 fresh fruits and vegetables with the most residue from toxic pesticides.
The activist group just published its 2021 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, which ranks pesticide contamination in 46 popular crops based on data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration. And according to that data, nearly 70% of conventionally grown produce sold in the United States this year still harbors potentially harmful chemicals—even after washing, scrubbing, and peeling.
Unsurprisingly, leafy greens, with their ruffled, lettuced edges, are a key culprit. Kale, collard, and mustard greens were in a top spot, containing up to 20 different pesticides, including a possible human carcinogen. But new to the list are bell peppers and hot peppers, which contained 115 different pesticides—the most of any item by far.
According to the EWG, most pesticide residues fall within limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency, but those tolerances are often greater than what scientists believe is safe, especially for pregnant women, babies, and young children. As the report reminds, “Pesticides are toxic by design. They are created expressly to kill living organisms.”
This doesn’t mean Americans should forgo fruits and veggies, which studies show are critical to a healthy diet and a long life. When shopping for produce in the Dirty Dozen, buy organic, the group recommends. Recent findings have linked increased consumption of organic foods to lower urinary pesticide levels, improved fertility and birth outcomes, reduced incidence of lymphoma, and reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes.
But if budget constraints prevent that, the group stresses, you should still keep eating fresh produce, “even if conventionally grown.” Or opt for the Clean Fifteen, the EWG’s roundup of produce with the least pesticide residues.
Full lists here:
- Kale, collard, and mustard greens
- Bell and hot peppers
- Sweet corn
- Sweet peas (frozen)
- Honeydew melon