Every year, the Environmental Working Group releases a Shopper’s Guide. The guide has information on 45 different conventional fruits and vegetables and their pesticide loads. At the top of the list — the produce found to contain the highest amount of pesticides — is the Dirty Dozen. These are the 12 foods that they recommend consumers always purchase in their organic form. Apples are at the top of the 2012 Shopper’s Guide for the second year in a row. The EWG guide is based on the group's analysis of pesticide residue testing data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
At the bottom of the list is the Clean Fifteen, 15 foods that have the lowest pesticide load. If you’re on a limited budget and have to pick and chose your organic produce, EWG recommends that you spend the extra money for the Dirty Dozen in their organic form and buy the Clean Fifteen in their conventional form.
2012 Dirty Dozen
3. Sweet bell peppers
6. Imported nectarines
11. Domestic blueberries
2012 Clean Fifteen
2. Sweet corn
6. Sweet peas
11. Domestic cantaloupe
12. Sweet potatoes
Dirty Dozen Plus category
This year EWG has expanded its Dirty Dozen list with a Plus category "to highlight two crops — green beans and leafy greens, meaning, kale and collard greens — that did not meet traditional Dirty Dozen criteria but were commonly contaminated with highly toxic organophosphate insecticides. These insecticides are toxic to the nervous system and have been largely removed from agriculture over the past decade. But they are not banned and still show up on some food crops. For this reason, EWG lists these on the new Dirty Dozen Plus as foods to avoid or to buy organic."
Other significant findings in the report
Some 98 percent of conventional apples have detectable levels of pesticides.
Domestic blueberries tested positive for 42 different pesticide residues.
78 different pesticides were found on lettuce samples.
Every single nectarine the USDA tested had measurable pesticide residues.
As a category, grapes have more types of pesticides than any other produce, with 64 different chemicals.
13 different pesticides were measured on a single sample each of celery and strawberries.
The EWG Shopper’s Guide has become just that — a guide that many people use to help them make decisions at the grocery store. When you’re at the farm stand or the farmers market and you have the opportunity to direct questions to the people who grow your food, you can ask about the growing methods and make choices based on the information. When you don’t have the ability to ask questions, this guide is helpful.