If you’re a regular follower of the Environmental Working Group’s Annual Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, you’ll see a lot of familiar faces on this year’s Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen lists.
If you’re new to EWG’s produce guide, saddle up because we’re about to break down the best (and worst) produce options to avoid pesticides.
The United States Department of Agriculture tested thousands of produce samples and found evidence of 230 different pesticides and pesticide breakdown products. Of the tested samples, nearly 70% of produce was contaminated by pesticide residue.
On top of being toxic, pesticides have been linked to fertility issues in both men and women.
The Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen lists make it easier for you to decide which foods are safe and healthy to eat, and which are worth spending extra for when it comes to organic produce. We recommend buying organic produce whenever you can, but we also know that depending on the time of year or where you live, organic options aren’t always available.
The Dirty Dozen
The following 12 fruit and veggies have tested positive for a number of different pesticide residues and showed the highest concentration of pesticides overall.
Strawberries have maintained their top spot again this year. One-third of all strawberries tested contained 10 or more pesticides. Meanwhile, grapes fell three spots this year, which shouldn’t come as a surprise when you learn that 96% of conventional grapes tested positive for pesticide residues.
The Clean Fifteen
The following 15 fruit and veggies showed the least amount of pesticide residues and lowest concentration of pesticides in tests.
Snagging this year’s top spot — with fewer than 1% of samples testing positive for pesticides — is the humble, healthy fat-rich avocado! Broccoli managed to squeeze out grapefruit for this year’s final spot in the Clean Fifteen with an impressive 70% of samples having no detectable pesticide residue.
Want these lists for yourself?
EWG has also put out a full version of the produce guide with a few other good/bad fruit and veg options. Check out the full 48 and see how the new additions — like kale and cucumbers — stack up against the Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen.
So now that you have your lists at the ready — what do you do with your fruit and veggies after purchasing them? You wash them. Properly, we hope….
How to Wash Your Fruits and Veggies
When buying produce, it’s important to wash it whether it’s organic or not.
While the Clean Fifteen boasts less pesticide residue than the Dirty Dozen list, you still need to wash your produce to ensure you are consuming the least possible amount of dirt, dust, pesticide, and residue.
But do you know how to properly do that?
- Wash fruit and veggies with soap or detergent
- Use an abrasive brush on delicately skinned fruit
- Wash your hands ahead of preparing fruit and veggies
- Place fruit and veggies in your sink and fill with cold, distilled water for two to three minutes. Soak produce with ridges and crevices (like broccoli and cauliflower) for a few minutes longer.
- For produce with thick skin, use a use a gentle vegetable brush to help lift away additional pesticides and microbes.
- Drain your sink and dry your fruit and veggies!
You may be thinking that commercial produce washes are missing from our Do list. But studies have shown that cold, distilled tap water is just as effective, if not more so, than costly veggie rinses.
Researchers at the University of Maine tested three commercial wash treatments:
- J0-4 Multi-Functional Food Sterilizer
- Ozone Water Purifier XT-301
All three products were tested according to package directions and the researchers used low-bush blueberries as the produce.
In addition to the three commercial washes, a water wash was also tested. The blueberries were put in distilled water for one to two minutes.
Here were the head-to-head results:
- Fit® wash was able to get rid of the same amount of microbes as distilled water. Both reduced the level of pesticide residue compared to unwashed samples.
- The J0-4 Multi-Functional Food Sterilizer and The Ozone Water Purifier XT-301 removed microbes from the blueberries. But the distilled water was more effective than both of the ozone washes.
Simple water for the win!
But why distilled water? Distilled water has been purified and filtered to remove contaminants. If you don’t have distilled water available to you, you can also use very clean, cold tap water instead.
So get buying and start washing!
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