Because of farming techniques, some nonorganic fruits and vegetables are more likely to contain pesticides than others. The Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides” ranks pesticide contamination for the 49 most consumed produce items. Its findings are based on analysis of 89,000 tests for pesticides conducted from 2000 to 2008 by the USDA and the FDA, with a minimum of 100 tests for each product. Nearly all of the studies used in EWG’s analysis tested produce after it had been rinsed or peeled. To calculate the rankings, EWG researchers measured contamination using six different indicators: the percent of samples tested that had detectable pesticides; the percent with two or more pesticides; the average number of pesticides found on a single sample; the average amount of all pesticides found; the maximum number of pesticides found on a single sample; and the total number of pesticides found.

It’s important to note that although the EWG’s list is a valuable resource for consumers, the analysis doesn’t take into consideration the relative toxicity of pesticides. This means a produce item that tends to have only one pesticide present at low levels get a relatively positive ranking on EWG’s list, even if that pesticide is highly toxic. On the other hand, an item that tends to be contaminated with multiple pesticides will get a poor ranking on EWG’s list, even if those pesticides are considered less toxic than most.

Listed below are the 49 items included in the EWG’s analysis, in order of lowest pesticide content to highest content.

EWG’s “Clean 15”—fruits and vegetables that were the least likely to test positive for pesticide content.

1. Onions
2. Avocados
3. Sweet corn (frozen)
4. Pineapples
5. Mangos
6. Sweet peas (frozen)
7. Asparagus
8. Kiwi
9. Cabbage
10. Eggplants
11. Cantaloupes (domestic)
12. Watermelons
13. Grapefruit
14. Sweet potatoes
15. Honeydew melons
16. Plums (domestic)
17. Cranberries
18. Winter squash
19. Broccoli
20. Bananas
21. Tomatoes
22. Cauliflower
23. Cucumbers (domestic)
24. Cantaloupe (imported)
25. Grapes (domestic)
26. Oranges
27. Red raspberries
28. Hot peppers
29. Green beans (imported)
30. Cucumbers (imported)
31. Summer squash
32. Plums (imported)
33. Pears
34. Green beans (domestic)
35. Carrots
36. Blueberries (imported)
37. Lettuce

EWG’s “Dirty Dozen”—fruits and vegetables that are most likely to be contaminated with pesticides. For these items, EWG recommends consumers buy organic whenever possible:

38. Grapes (imported)
39. Potatoes
40. Kale and collard greens
41. Cherries
42. Spinach
43. Bell peppers
44. Nectarines
45. Blueberries (domestic)
46. Apples
47. Strawberries
48. Peaches
49. Celery

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