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The 2020 Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen

Karen Alexander, Licensed Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

April 15, 2020

Nearly 70 percent of the fresh produce sold in the U.S. contains residues of potentially harmful chemical pesticides according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG). The EWG  is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to empower people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Every year, the EWG releases 3 different fruits and vegetables guides, including:

  • an annual ranking list of fruits and vegetables (based on findings from the USDA) that have the most pesticides called the Dirty Dozen
  • a “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce”
  • a Clean Fifteen list, which is a list of produce with less pesticide residue

These guides are a great resource for people interested in reducing exposure to pesticides. In a past interview with News4Jax, Dr. Ackerman discussed the prevalence of pesticides on certain cereals.

The Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen
Below are the lists for the Dirty Dozen 2020 and the Clean Fifteen.

Dirty Dozen 2020: The EWG suggests buying these fruits and vegetables from the organic section at your grocery store or farmer’s market.                                                            

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale
  4. Nectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Peaches
  8. Cherries
  9. Pears
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Celery
  12. Potatoes

To view the extended list of produce with pesticide residue, visit EWG’s 2020 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. From the extended list, the products that contained higher pesticide content were hot and sweet peppers, oats, beans, legumes, herbs, rice, and wheat.

*A special note for raisins: 99 percent of non-organic raisins tested positive for at least two pesticides. 91 percent of organic raisins tested positive to pesticide residues and 78 percent of organic raisins were contaminated with pesticides linked with brain and nervous system harm and cancer. Instead, consumers can choose to buy prunes as the average conventional prune tested positive for just one pesticide and 50 percent of conventional prunes were free from detectable pesticides.

The Clean Fifteen: These are fruits and vegetables with minimal to no pesticide residue, which the EWG believes are the safest foods to buy even if buying non-organic.

  1. Avocado
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapple
  4. Onions
  5. Papaya
  6. Sweet peas frozen
  7. Eggplant
  8. Asparagus
  9. Cauliflower
  10. Cantaloupe
  11. Broccoli
  12. Mushrooms
  13. Cabbage
  14. Honey melon
  15. Kiwi

3 Frequently Asked Questions

1. Does the report include every pesticide used in crop?
No, the USDA tests don’t cover every pesticide used in crop production, including glyphosate or Roundup, the most heavily used pesticide in the U.S.

2. Does washing or peeling produce eliminate the pesticides?
Before conducting its tests, USDA washes, scrubs, and peels fruits and vegetables as consumers would. Therefore, washing and peeling produce will not remove all pesticide residues.

3. Who are the most vulnerable to pesticide exposure?
Infants, babies, and young children are especially vulnerable to even low levels of pesticide exposure. Therefore, using EWG’s guide can help give consumers the tools to provide their families with a mix of both conventional and organic fruits and veggies without the extra expense that buying organic foods carries.

In summary, the EWG suggests to buy the organic version of the Dirty Dozen and to buy either organic or non-organic versions of the Clean Fifteen, since these fruits and vegetables are the safest foods to buy.

Recipe of the Week
The recipe of the week comes via Native Sun: Spicy Thai Mango Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 English cucumber, sliced
  • 2 large carrots, sliced
  • 1 mango, sliced
  • a handful cherry tomatoes, sliced if preferred
  • a handful cashews or peanuts
  • cilantro
  • 1 – 2 limes

Dressing

  • 2 tbsp. tamari, soy sauce, or coconut aminos
  • 1 tbsp. coconut, pure cane, or raw sugar
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • Juice of one lime

Directions

Start by making the spicy dressing. Whisk together the tamari, sugar, garlic, red pepper flakes, and lime juice in a small bowl.

In a large mixing or serving bowl, add the prepared mango, carrot, cucumber, tomatoes, and cilantro. Pour the spicy Thai dressing over the top and toss to coat.

Serve in individual bowls with a squeeze of lime over the top and more red pepper flakes to taste.

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