Is Your Produce Poisonous?

Written by Aimee Wharton
Posted August 1, 2016 at 7:15PM

Here at Health Wire, we encourage our readers to eat organic fruits and veggies whenever possible. In fact, organic produce (specifically vegetables) is foundational to a healthy diet.

That said, eating exclusively organic can be tough for those on a tight budget, and sometimes organic produce varieties can be hard to find or simply unavailable. Thankfully, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has released a new Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce.

“It is designed,” says Dr. Andrew Weil, “to help you know when to choose organically grown produce, and when conventionally grown produce is an acceptable alternative.” 1

This updated Shopper's Guide highlights the best of the best and the worst of the worst when it comes to produce and pesticides. Basically, it boils down to a short list of fruits and vegetables you should ALWAYS buy organic, and a list of those you can cut corners on and buy in good conscience even without an organic label.

EWG tested thousands of produce samples for pesticide residue and discovered a total of 146 nasty chemicals lurking on common fruits and veggies. 2 In fact, some produce specimens were downright poisonous.

Poisonous Produce: EWG's “Dirty Dozen”

These worst offenders — those with the highest pesticide content — are infamously dubbed “the dirty dozen.” They get increasingly pesticide heavy as you move down the list, with the number one spot going to the most toxic of the bunch.

12. Cucumbers

11. Cherry tomatoes

10. Sweet bell peppers

9. Tomatoes

8. Spinach

7. Cherries

6. Grapes

5. Celery

4. Peaches

3. Nectarines

2. Apples

1. Strawberries

“Each of these foods,” EWG says, “tested positive for a number of different pesticide residues and showed higher concentrations of pesticides than other produce... even when they were washed and, in some cases, peeled.” 3

As you can see, strawberries have the nasty notoriety of being the dirtiest of them all. In fact, EWG found that “more than 98% of strawberry samples tested positive for at least one pesticide,” while some strawberry specimens contained up to 17 different pesticides. 4

In addition to the “dirty dozen,” dishonorable mentions include potatoes, kale, collard greens, and hot peppers.

Bottom line: It's best to buy the above fruits and vegetables organic. Otherwise, leave them out of your shopping cart.

Best in Class: EWG's “Clean Fifteen”

On the other end of the spectrum are the “clean fifteen.” These are the fruits and vegetables least likely to contain harmful chemical residue, even when they're conventionally grown.

15. Sweet potatoes

14. Cauliflower

13. Cantaloupe (domestic)

12. Grapefruit

11. Eggplant

10. Kiwi

9. Papayas

8. Mangoes

7. Asparagus

6. Onions

5. Sweet peas (frozen)

4. Cabbage

3. Pineapples

2. Sweet corn

And the winner is...

1. Avocados

In fact, according to the EWG's research, only 1% of avocado samples showed any detectable trace of pesticides. 5

Bottom line: If you need to save money, or simply can't find these fruits and veggies with an organic sticker on the side, then it's okay to load up their conventional counterparts.

Best wishes for wellness,


Aimee Wharton

Aimee is an editor for Health Wire. Her health writing career began in Philadelphia under the instruction of award-winning medical journalist Susan Fitzgerald. Since then, she's had the opportunity to interview doctors, naturopaths, and even Navajo medicine men.

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