The Environmental Working Group has released its annual Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. The guide ranks pesticide contamination on 48 popular fruits and vegetables. To determine the ranking, the EWG analyzes more than 28,000 samples that have been tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration.

2013 Dirty Dozen List

The fruits and vegetables that rank the highest in pesticide load are known as the Dirty Dozen, and the EWG advises that if you can’t afford to buy all organic produce, you should at least buy organic versions of these 12 items. There are also two extra Dirty Dozen Plus vegetables on the list. The explanation for those is below.

  1. Apples
  2. Strawberries
  3. Grapes
  4. Celery
  5. Peaches
  6. Spinach
  7. Sweet bell peppers
  8. Nectarines
  9. Cucumbers
  10. Potatoes
  11. Cherry tomatoes
  12. Hot peppers
2013 Clean 15 list

The produce that ends up on the bottom of the list, those with the least amount of pesticide contamination are known as the Clean 15. If you can’t afford to buy organic, but you want to be exposed as little as possible to pesticides, these 15 fruits and vegetables should make up a good amount of what you eat.

  1. Mushrooms
  2. Sweet potatoes
  3. Cantaloupe
  4. Grapefruit
  5. Kiwi
  6. Eggplant
  7. Asparagus
  8. Mangoes
  9. Papayas
  10. Sweet peas – frozen
  11. Cabbage
  12. Avocados
  13. Pineapple
  14. Onions
  15. Corn
Dirty Dozen Plus category

This plus category includes domestically grown summer squash and leafy greens, specifically kale and collards. While they didn’t make the top 12, they were found to be commonly contaminated with pesticides that are exceptionally toxic to the nervous system, including organochlorine, which has been banned for home use and withdrawn for many agricultural uses, but is still applied to certain commercial crops.

Keep in mind that the information in EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce is based on produce bought at supermarkets. If you shop at farmers markets, you can ask the farmers about their growing practices. Even if what they sell isn’t certified organic, many of them farm very sustainably. If you’re confident that your farmer uses as few pesticides as possible, many of those foods on the Dirty Dozen become good choices, even if they aren’t certified organic.

And, of course, you can always plant a garden in your yard or grow a few containers of vegetables on sunny windowsill or an apartment patio. That way, you’ll know exactly how it’s been grown.

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

2013's updated Dirty Dozen produce list
Each year the Environmental Working Group ranks supermarket produce by its pesticide load, the worst are known as the Dirty Dozen.