EWG’s 2019 Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen Lists

Nutrition / March 28, 2019

Two open hands holding fresh strawberries

The 2019 Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists are here!

Every year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) produces the lists as part of their Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) tests thousands of samples of produce sold in America. And the EWG analyzes the list to determine which produce has the most pesticide residues (the Dirty Dozen) and which has the least pesticide residues (the Clean Fifteen.)

If you’re familiar with the Guide to Pesticide in Produce, you’ll recognize a lot of familiar faces on the lists this year. Although there are a few surprising newcomers!

The USDA found evidence of 225 different pesticides and pesticide breakdown products. What’s more, nearly 70% of the tested samples were contaminated by pesticide residues!

But why should you be aware of pesticide residues on produce? Well, pesticides are bad news for your bones, because many are pro-oxidant, which means they produce free radicals in your body. And free radicals can trigger low-grade, chronic inflammation which causes bone loss! You can read all about pesticides and bone health on our “Top Causes of Osteoporosis” page.

Plus, pesticides have been linked to fertility issues in both men and women.

Here at AlgaeCal 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 Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen lists make it easier for you to decide which conventionally grown foods are safe and healthy to eat, and which are worth spending a little extra on to go organic.


The Dirty Dozen

The following 12 fruits and veggies tested positive for a number of different pesticide residues and showed the highest concentration of pesticides overall.

Strawberries maintain top spot again this year– that’s the third year running! 90% of strawberry samples tested positive for at least two pesticides.

Perhaps the biggest surprise on this year’s Dirty Dozen list is the appearance of the popular “superfood” kale. Kale didn’t feature at all on last year’s list, but this year it’s the third most pesticide-contaminated produce! In fact, a single sample could contain as many as 18 different residues.

The Clean Fifteen

The following 15 fruits and veggies showed the least amount of pesticide residues and the lowest concentration of pesticides.

The cleanest of all, for the second year running, is the healthy, fat-rich avocado! Less than 1% of avocado samples showed any detectable pesticides.

The rest of the Clean Fifteen are largely the same as last year, bar a few position changes in the middle of the pack. The only newcomer is the mushroom, who squeezed out mangos.

Want these lists for yourself?

Download the PDF here, print it out and take it grocery shopping!

Or if you’d rather have a pictureless version, click here for the picture-free PDF. (I like to stick my list to my kitchen cupboard as a reminder).

If you’d like to delve a little further into clean and dirty produce, the EWG publishes a full version of their produce guide. Check out the full 47 and see how other produce — like lettuce and bananas — 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

Now, the produce in the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists was washed and peeled before testing, just as people would prepare food for themselves. This shows that washing doesn’t remove all pesticides. But the EWG states that unwashed produce will contain more pesticides than washed produce.

So, it’s important to wash your produce 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’re consuming the least possible amount of dirt, dust, and pesticide residue.

But do you know how to properly do that? Here are a few tips to help you out…

Don’t:

  • Wash fruit and veggies with soap or detergent
  • Use an abrasive brush on delicately skinned fruit

Do:

  1. Wash your hands ahead of preparing fruit and veggies
  2. 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.
  3. For produce with thick skin, use a gentle vegetable brush to help lift away additional pesticides and microbes.
  4. Drain your sink and dry your fruit and veggies when you’ve finished washing.

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
  • Fit®
  • 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.

I hope you found this post useful 🙂 Let me know what surprised you most in the comments section below!

Author: Monica Straith, BS

Comments
Mildred djordjevich
Mildred djordjevich

We grow our own produce so we don’t ingest any pesticides,herbicides or artificial manures.

Megan AlgaeCal
Megan AlgaeCal

Amazing, Mildred!!

Thanks for sharing and we hope you keep up the awesome work! 😄

-Megan @ AlgaeCal

Angelina Gonzales
Angelina Gonzales

I love all the information I read on here. I use vinegar and cold tap water or filtered water and soaked the veggies and fruits. Does it matter how long you soaked it? I don’t mind the taste, we used vinegar with crushed garlic, hotpepper and salt. Thank you

Megan AlgaeCal
Megan AlgaeCal

Hi Angelina, so glad you enjoy the information!

It seems like 10-15 minutes of soaking does the trick! Your mix sounds delicious by the way 😋

-Megan @ AlgaeCal

Marie
Marie

I keep a basin just to wash my fruit & vegetables. To the clean cold water I add two or three drops of lugul’s iodine & soak my produce for about ten minutes. Iodine kills bacteria & is needed for a healthy thyroid.

Megan AlgaeCal
Megan AlgaeCal

Great tip, Marie!

Thanks for taking the time to share 😊

-Megan @ AlgaeCal

Janet
Janet

Where do we get the distilled water to wash the fruit? Do you want us to buy plastic containers of distilled water?

Blaire AlgaeCal
Blaire AlgaeCal

Hi Janet,

Good question! You can actually make distilled water at home if you prefer – find out how here. Alternatively, clean tap water works as well 😊

– Blaire @ AlgaeCal

Carole
Carole

I buy distilled water at my local pharmacy.

Megan AlgaeCal
Megan AlgaeCal

Great idea, Carole!

Thanks so much for taking the time to share ❤️

-Megan @ AlgaeCal

Maria
Maria

One thing to be aware of is that baking soda (Arm & Hammer seems to be the most popular) contains ALUMINUM! In order to avoid this toxin, you would have to purchase baking soda in a Health Food Store where they sell brands that do not add aluminum. Of course this is more expensive but our health is definitely worth it!

Jenna AlgaeCal
Jenna AlgaeCal

Great tip! Thanks for sharing, Maria.

– Jenna @ AlgaeCal

Diane
Diane

I buy Bob’s red mill aluminum free baking soda online so no special trip needed. Not too expensive. Arm and Hammer is best used for cleaning IMO.

Megan AlgaeCal
Megan AlgaeCal

Hi Kathleen, thank you for clarifying!

It turns out it’s baking powder that may contain aluminum, not baking soda! 🙂

-Megan @ AlgaeCAl

Janet
Janet

I’ve never done anything more than a quick rinse under running water, after buying organic, unless it’s from our garden and has aphids, then it gets soaked in salted water. Sometimes I pack greens in plastic bags or clamshells lined with paper towels, but I hear paper towels aren’t the healthiest thing to be nestled next to our produce either. We do our best and then we pray over our food and leave the rest to God.

Laura
Laura

This is good info! And who knew it was such a hot topic? 🙂 I’m glad to know I don’t have to spend money on useless cleaning products. I have used vinegar in the water myself and done a rinse after. The baking soda sounds like an interesting one to try. The point is using science to break down the pesticide residue chemically so it is removed. (Man speak) Distilled water, or just water at a cold temperature, has the right state to break down the residue. Throwing gas on it won’t work.

Resurreccion Alolod
Resurreccion Alolod

Thanks for the info. I always wash my fruits and veggies with water & vinegar. Even in some of the ready to be eaten pack pre-cut veggies, I still wash them to be sure. You can tell the difference if it is organic or non-organic fruit if you always eat it. The info is very helpful.

Lou
Lou

The vinegar mixture sounds like it would clean better than water. However, what would kill the OTHER gross things on the veggies–for instance, human waste? I clean my veggies with soap and water because I am afraid of these other germs. Does the vinegar kill these germs, too?

Sissybugs
Sissybugs

Yes, the acid in the vinegar basically kills anything bad. I do a clean rinse after.

Sandra
Sandra

I like to do this as well!

Rita
Rita

Thanks for all the information I personally use clean tap water and soak all my fruit and veggies in diluted vinegar for at least 10 minutes

Audrwy
Audrwy

This is excellent information. Thank you! So how do you pre wash raspberries and leafy greens without them getting mushy in the fridge? And do you store them in containers?

Jenna AlgaeCal
Jenna AlgaeCal

Oh good question, Audrwy! I find it helps to pat dry soft fruits and leafy greens then store them in a container lined with paper towel (with berries I reuse the original container).

– Jenna @ AlgaeCal

Jim Presant
Jim Presant

Thanks. But I would want much better data on AMOUNT of pesticide removal by alternate washing methods. Farmers don’t want expensive pesticides to wash away in rain, so they’re oil-based rather than water-based. A few drops of dish detergent (like Dawn) plus rinsing, in ten seconds will remove MUCH pesticide, whereas just cold water will remove ALMOST NONE!

Joani
Joani

Dawn is toxic! I don’t even use it to wash dishes! I use vinegar and water. I soak fruit or veggies for a few minutes. The dirt in the bottom of the bowl is shocking, but my grapes sure are squeaky clean!

STYLIANOS GEORGAKAKIS
STYLIANOS GEORGAKAKIS

Hi Monica,
Excellent information.
Thank you,

stelioscdn
Toronto, Canada

Sunny Drohan
Sunny Drohan

Just last week, I heard that now they want you to wash the outside skins of avocados.

Nina Purcell
Nina Purcell

Is it okay to eat apples, for instance, if you take off the skin?

Jenna AlgaeCal
Jenna AlgaeCal

Hi Nina,

Apples have consistently topped the EWG’s Dirty Dozen list and contain an average of 4.4 pesticide residues. So while removing the skin will eliminate some pesticides, it may not effectively remove them all (some pesticides can penetrate the skin of the fruit).

To be safe, it’s best to purchase organic apples whenever possible!

– Jenna @ AlgaeCal

Julia Holland
Julia Holland

Are the organic berries & apples pesticide free? I thought it said they tested them also.

Megan AlgaeCal
Megan AlgaeCal

Good question, Julia!

Organic produce may still contain pesticides, but natural pesticides rather than synthetic ones. 🙂 Hope this helps!

-Megan @ AlgaeCal

Kris Charbs
Kris Charbs

The skin of the apple is where a ton of the nutrition is, so removing the skin is really not the best idea. You’ll find this to be true with lots of fruits and vegetables. Think of all the skins you already eat! I scrub carrots but don’t peel them. The white part of an orange (the pith) has more vitamin C than the actual orange does, so eat up! The green leaves on a strawberry are similar to eating any greens. So if you’re making a smoothie, leave the leaves!

lori
lori

The article says to use distilled water. Will tap water also work or is the ph too high?

Jenna AlgaeCal
Jenna AlgaeCal

Hi Lori,

Yes it will! If you don’t have distilled water, you can use very clean, cold tap water instead.

– Jenna @ AlgaeCal

Susanne Lee
Susanne Lee

Hydrogen peroxide in a bowl of tap water is AWESOME for a fruit/veggie soak, too!

Leah Corcoran
Leah Corcoran

Thank you for sharing this valuable info! I have the lists posted for our patients in the office that I work in. As a nurse, one thing that came to mind as I read the article is that it would be important to remind people to thoroughly clean and rinse their kitchen sinks before filling them and and soaking produce, as sinks are generally one of the dirtiest, most bacteria-laden places in our homes. This is especially true if you’re soaking produce that will be eaten raw. Had to throw my two cents in!

Jenna AlgaeCal
Jenna AlgaeCal

Glad you enjoyed it, Leah. And that’s an excellent point! Thanks for taking the time to share 🙂

– Jenna @ AlgaeCal

Sherry Rasmussen
Sherry Rasmussen

Thanks for the valuable information. So I am wondering though what about fruits and vegetables that you get from a stand like Untiedt–there fruits and vegetables are so good but am wondering if they would have pesticides also. Thanks for the info.

Jenna AlgaeCal
Jenna AlgaeCal

Good question, Sherry.

In that case, it’s best to speak with the stand attendant to determine the farms growing practices – as they may or may not use pesticides! And always be sure to wash your fruits and veggies using the guidelines above 🙂

– Jenna @ AlgaeCal

Roberta
Roberta

Thanks for all.the great info and all very usable and doable!! Please add me to any lists you send your messages on. Thanks again

Janet Johnson
Janet Johnson

I greatly appreciate this information and the handy printables. My brain doesn’t hold onto things like it used to, and this is going on my fridge! We can’t afford organic much of the time. I sadly just quit eating strawberries. But fortunately organic apples are doable. If you have an Aldi, they are always a good price there.

Clara
Clara

I’m still trying to understand why no soap if it’s a natural soap without all the chemicals, like Bronner’s.

Monica AlgaeCal
Monica AlgaeCal

Hi Clara,

If you still prefer to use a natural soap to wash your produce, please continue to do so! This is just one study comparing the effects of commercial produce washes and water. It did find that distilled water was just as, if not more effective, but that doesn’t mean you have to use distilled water. We are just providing you with some information so you can make an informed decision.

– Monica

Stacy
Stacy

Distilled water works great because it is acidic and has no after taste like vinegar.

Monica AlgaeCal
Monica AlgaeCal

Hi Stacy,

Agreed! I always found my produce had a vinegar aftertaste with the natural washes that use vinegar. It wasn’t until I switched to distilled water and a gentle produce brush that I found, personally my favorite way, to wash my produce.

– Monica

Beth
Beth

I find it rather incredible that soaking in distilled water alone would remove pesticides. Are pesticides removed from produce when it rains? I clean my produce with a mixture of water, vinegar, grapefruit seed extract with baking soda added to the moistened produce (I learned on the Oprah show years ago). Thank you for this article.

Monica AlgaeCal
Monica AlgaeCal

Hi Beth,

That mixture sounds really great, I’ll have to try it! Right now I am using a produce brush in addition to distilled water when I’m washing my produce and am liking it.

– Monica

Deb
Deb

Hi Beth. Will you please give more info on the amount of each item you use. Thank you.

Tuti Budiman
Tuti Budiman

Usually I soak my fruits and veggies in water with added baking soda for few minutes. Then rainse themnwith clean drinking water. What do you think?

Monica AlgaeCal
Monica AlgaeCal

Hi Tuti,

I’ve used baking soda and water before myself. I think it’s a good, natural alternative for sure!

– Monica

Jan Richard
Jan Richard

Foodrevolution.org tested salt, vinegar and baking soda . Baking soda removed the most pesticides. I buy it in bulk, very cheap.

doris v wilson
doris v wilson

do you still need to wash apples if you peel them and any other peelable fruit?

Monica AlgaeCal
Monica AlgaeCal

That’s a great question, Doris. I searched EWG to try and find an answer and unfortunately came up short – I couldn’t find anything definitive for you.

Personally, I still wash everything with a ‘thinner’ peel like kiwis and apples even if they are eventually going to be peeled because pesticides and residue may get transferred to the inside when peeled. But bananas and avocados I don’t. This isn’t the science-backed answer you were looking for, but I hope it helps in any case. I’ll follow up with a reply if I ever do come across this information though!

– Monica

Dagmar
Dagmar

Sending many thanks to all of you at algaecal and all of you who are adding to the conversation 😘 I always find the info here very valuable…♥️

Monica AlgaeCal
Monica AlgaeCal

Thank you, Dagmar! Glad you’re finding the info valuable 🙂

– Monica

Shawn
Shawn

Monica – can you make a pictureless version of the 2018 list (like the 2017 list you made). Thank you! I’d love it emailed to me.

Joyce Schulte
Joyce Schulte

I use your materials for my Health Psychology class at college.

Wanda
Wanda

On their product’s package, Arm & Hammer suggests to use their baking soda as a cleaner for fruits & vegetables, either by manually washing or by soaking. It claims it removes debris & wax. Is this a safe solution? Afterall, baking soda is ingestible.

Monica
Monica

Hi Wanda,
I’ve heard of using baking soda to wash fruits and veggies, although I haven’t done it myself. If it’s recommended as a use of Arm & Hammer, then it should be safe.
– Monica

Ellen
Ellen

Can you send out a one page list without pictures for easy posting on refrig or tucking in wallet?

Penny
Penny

You’re recommending distilled water, what about reverse osmosis (RO) water?

Would also appreciate a downloadable list option.

nathan fama
nathan fama

good info……thanks!

I scrubbed apples in soapy water, but will do the distilled water for all from now on. Makes sense since distilled water is known to absorb/assimilate toxins and good for many purposes.

Monica
Monica

Hi Nathan,
Thanks for taking the time to comment! Yeah, I used to use a bit of vinegar (cut with water) but found it still left a bit of a taste, which I didn’t love.
– Monica @ AlgaeCal

Barb Stefl
Barb Stefl

A small 2017 “dirty/clean” list on 1 page or less (no pictures) would be appreciated, as it could easily be posted on a kitchen cupboard inside door. Thanks

Monica
Monica

Thanks for the feedback, Barb!

Much appreciated,

– Monica @ AlgaeCal

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