Strawberries are the dirtiest of the Environmental Working Group's 2018 Dirty Dozen list, the third year the fruit has taken the top dishonor. Each year, EWG releases this list to make it easier to avoid pesticide residue. Although fruits and vegetables are a vital part of a healthy diet, the pesticides left behind on conventionally grown produce can affect health in subtle ways. EWG is a nonprofit group that uses public information to protect public health and the environment.

The Dirty Dozen list is part of the annual Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce, an analysis of tests on produce by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This year, EWG also released a video (above) that explains how the list is created and why certain fruits and vegetables frequently end up on the Dirty Dozen list while others consistently land at the bottom of the list, what the organization calls the Clean Fifteen.

The Dirty Dozen

tomatoes on the vine Unless you're sure of the source of your tomatoes, buy them organically to avoid heavy pesticide residue. (Photo: bajinda/Shutterstock)

These are the fruits and vegetables EWG suggests buying organically to eliminate the highest risk of pesticide exposure:

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Nectarines
  4. Apples
  5. Grapes
  6. Peaches
  7. Cherries
  8. Pears
  9. Tomatoes
  10. Celery
  11. Potatoes
  12. Sweet bell peppers

The Clean Fifteen

eggplants on wooden table Eggplant is one of the vegetables that's likely to have a lower pesticide load, according to the studies. (Photo: Valentsova/Shutterstock)

Purchasing only organic produce is cost-prohibitive for many of us, so EWG wants to show the other side of the story. These 15 foods were found to have the least amount of residual pesticides on them. If you aren't going to buy all organic produce, these are the conventionally grown fruits and vegetables that are your safest bets.

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Cabbage
  5. Onions
  6. Frozen sweet peas
  7. Papayas
  8. Asparagus
  9. Mangoes
  10. Eggplant
  11. Honeydew melon
  12. Kiwi
  13. Canteloupe
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Broccoli

EWG also notes that a small amount of sweet corn, papaya and summer squash sold in the U.S. come from genetically modified seeds. If you want to avoid genetically modified produce, the organization suggests buying the organic varieties of these foods, even if they are on the Clean Fifteen list.

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

Strawberries top Dirty Dozen list for third year
Environmental Working Group's annual list of fruits and vegetables with the highest and lowest pesticide loads is out.