The EWG has released its annual Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists. ( The Packer )

2020 “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” lists released

The Environmental Working Group has once again listed strawberries and spinach at the top of its annual Dirty Dozen list — along with kale, a leafy green that has gone from trendy to ubiquitous in recent years.

The EWG bases its list, which is not peer-reviewed, on annual reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Pesticide Data Program

More than than 99% of produce samples tested for that report had pesticide residues acceptable to the EPA, but EWG believes the federal standards are insufficient. 

In recent years, health professionals like registered dietitians have been stepping up to defend all fruits and vegetables — organic and conventional. Even the EWG's own expert, quoted in the organization's news release, says the benefits of eating produce outweigh any risk from pesticide exposure.

Here's the full list of EWG's "Dirty Dozen" for 2019:

Strawberries Spinach Kale nectarines Apples Grapes Peaches Cherries Pears Tomatoes Celery potaotes

EWG also mentioned hot peppers in the "Dirty Dozen" category.

Along with dietitians, members of the fresh produce industry push back against the list, especially because research has shown that disparaging certain fruits and vegetables may influence low-income consumers in particular to buy less produce overall. 

“USApple’s consumer education efforts focus on science-based reasons to eat more wholesome foods like apples — not less,” U.S. Apple Association president and CEO Jim Bair said in a news release. “The Surgeon General and leading health organizations agree there is far greater health risk from not eating fruits and vegetables than from any theoretical risk that might be posed by consuming trace amounts of pesticide residues.”

For its "Clean Fifteen," EWG selected the following:

Avocados corn Pineapple sweet peas onions Papaya eggplant asparagus Kiwi cabbage cauliflower cantaloupe broccoli mushrooms Honeydew

The Alliance for Food and Farming has a pesticide calculator that allows shoppers to see, based on peer-reviewed research, how many servings a child, woman or man could eat of any produce item before damage from pesticide residue could occur. 

“What we try and do is really provide consumers with information that they need to know so that facts, not fears, can guide their shopping choices," said Teresa Thorne, who works with AFF. "We’re strong advocates for consumer choice, whether you choose conventional or organic produce, is great with us – just choose to eat more.

"We certainly don’t feel that it is right for a group to disparage and call perfectly safe and healthy produce ‘dirty,’ and so we take exception with that and work really diligently again to provide consumers with information on organic and conventional produce, the safety of both, the nutrition of both," Thorne said.

Related article:

A dirty dozen list by any other name would do the same 

Kale takes lumps with Dirty Dozen coverage

Packer Insight — A twist on the Dirty Dozen

Poll: How does your company respond to the release of the Dirty Dozen list?

Submitted by John Hogan on Fri, 04/12/2019 - 12:32

I found your article very informative.

Submitted by Joe on Wed, 05/15/2019 - 21:05

How are fruits and vegetables tested? Are the produce items only tested for residue on the outside or are the fruits ad vegetables tested inside and out? It seems to me that when pesticides are applied, some gets on the plant and fruit and some gets on the ground. The chemicals on the ground, when watered, would be carried to the roots of that plant and delivered to every cell in that plant. If this is so, washing or peeling would do no good. Thick or tough peel or rind would make no difference at all.

Submitted by Kathryn on Thu, 12/12/2019 - 09:18

I have the same question and I wish they would reply!

In reply to by Joe (not verified)

Submitted by Carol Foster on Thu, 05/16/2019 - 19:31

I work in a grocery store and do my best to educate customers on the dirty dozen and clean 15 by talking to them and writing your website address on receipts. Thanks for all the good your organization does.

Submitted by Patricia on Mon, 05/18/2020 - 12:25

a non reply is probably answer enough i'd say!

Submitted by Patricia on Mon, 05/18/2020 - 12:25

a non reply is probably answer enough i'd say!

Submitted by J. H. on Mon, 06/01/2020 - 16:51

What about lettuce and carrots and radishes and cucumbers for salads?

Submitted by S.L. on Fri, 10/16/2020 - 05:52

I would not want one molecule of pesticides in my body no matter what anyone says is safe. One molecule can become a free radical and bind with healthy cells, turning them into little cancer factories. It's playing with fire.