Dodging Chemicals: The Clean Fifteen and the Dirty Dozen

Posted on: 08.11.2016     By: Dana Stango

Many people have heard that organically grown fruits and vegetables are the gold standard when it comes to healthy produce. Organic means that the produce was grown and processed without the use of pesticides and GMOs. Conventional means that the produce was likely grown and processed with the use of pesticides and GMO’s. GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism, which can mean different things. Most foods are grown conventionally with the use of pesticides.

Now let's be fair, the use of pesticides and GMO’s creates a greater crop yield making it possible to feed more people for less money. Organically grown food can be more expensive to grow, and because of this, organic food is notoriously more expensive than conventional food. But is it really worth it to buy organic? And if you can only afford to buy some of your produce organic, which ones should you buy?

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) created a great resource to help consumers make this choice. They created two lists based on an analysis of more than 35,200 samples taken by the US Department of Agriculture and Federal Food and Drug Administration (USDA). The USDA personnel prepared the produce the way a consumer normally would, washing and cutting, before testing it.

Six areas were tested:

  • Percent of samples with detectable pesticides.
  • Percent of samples with two or more pesticides.
  • Average number of pesticides found on a single sample.
  • Total number of different pesticides found on each food as a whole.
  • Average number of pesticides found measured in parts per million.
  • Maximum number of pesticides found on a single sample.

With this information, the EWG created two lists, the dirty dozen and the clean fifteen. The dirty dozen contained more residual pesticide than all the other foods tested, even after washing and cutting. The clean fifteen is a list of produce that is less likely to hold pesticide, even if purchased conventionally.

Dirty Dozen (In order from most residual pesticide to least)

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Sweet Bell Peppers
  4. Peaches
  5. Strawberries
  6. Nectarines (imported)
  7. Grapes
  8. Spinach
  9. Lettuce
  10. Cucumbers
  11. Blueberries (domestic)
  12. Potatoes
  13. Green Beans (New Addition)
  14. Kale/Collard Greens (New Addition)

I guess the dirty fourteen wasn’t as catchy.

Clean Fifteen

  1. Onions
  2. Sweet Corn (note: almost always a GMO so if this concerns you, buy organic)
  3. Pineapple
  4. Avocado
  5. Cabbage
  6. Sweet Peas
  7. Asparagus
  8. Mangoes
  9. Eggplant
  10. Kiwi
  11. Cantaloupe (domestic)
  12. Sweet Potatoes
  13. Grapefruit
  14. Watermelon
  15. Mushrooms

To learn more about how these two lists were compiled or what exactly was found on the produce, visit

To learn how to make a simple, all natural fruit and veggie wash for your product click here

    "Eat Foods. Not too much. Mostly plants." - Michael Pollan  

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