The Dirty Dozen: Fruits & Vegetables With The Most Pesticides

Various vegetables and fruits on display in grocery store

Looking at fruits and vegetables in a grocery story, you see all the bright colors and vibrant shine that entices you to buy them, right?  But what you may not see is the pesticide residue being sprayed on before transit to ward off insects and keep the color.

Out of all the produce samples the USDA tested in 2014 (the last year for which data is available), nearly three-fourths showed some kind of pesticide residue, which is about in keeping with other years.

This amount persists despite growers’ best efforts to clean up the produce, according to the Environmental Working Group, an environmental activist group. Annually, EWG puts together what it calls the “Dirty Dozen,” a list of produce that has the most pesticide residue, according to the group’s analysis of government data.

Topping the list this year are strawberries, beating out apples, which ranked first for the last five years. Since Americans eat almost 8 pounds of the fruit each year, according to EWG, this is a special concern for the group. Their analysis of the government tests found that strawberries had an average of 5.75 different pesticides per sample — compared to 1.74 pesticides per sample of all the other produce the USDA tested. Strawberry growers use 60 different pesticides in a wide variety of combinations, according to EWG. One of the dirtiest samples tested for 17 different pesticides. Only about 7% of the strawberries sampled, though, had pesticide levels above what is considered allowable under U.S. law.

After strawberries, the “dirty dozen,” in order, are:

2.) apples

3.) nectarines

4.) peaches

5.) celery

6.) grapes

7.) cherries

8.) spinach

9.) tomatoes