Bug Off: The 5 Fruits and Vegetables with the Most Pesticides, and the Five with the Least

Do you dare to eat a peach?
Do you dare to eat a peach?
Photo by Barbara Rich

We all know that we should thoroughly wash our fruits and vegetables after buying them from the grocery store or farmers market. That doesn't mean there isn't still pesticide residue left on the produce items, however.

According to nonprofit advocacy agency Environmental Working Group, a lot of the most commonly consumed fruits and vegetables still contain a large amount of pesticide residue. If you want to avoid most of these pesticides, buying organic is the way to go, especially for the ones ranked highest on the list. Here are the top five fruits and vegetables that made the EWG's Dirty Dozen list and Clean 15 List found in their Shopper's Guide to Pesticide in Produce.

Let's start with the bad news first.

Buy organic celery if you like making ants-on-a-log for your kids.
Buy organic celery if you like making ants-on-a-log for your kids.
Photo courtesy of Jenn Durfey

Dirty Produce

5. Peaches

Peaches have a fuzzy skin that allows mold to grow easily, causing peaches to need and contain pesticides. Pregnant women are also advised to avoid peaches because of the amount of pesticides found in the fuzzy skin. Stick to organic if you want to enjoy peaches free of pesticides.

4. Celery

Celery is the only vegetable to make the top five list on EWG's Dirty Dozen list. In the samples tested by EWG, 13 different pesticides were identified. In years past, EWG has identified more than 60 different pesticides on non-organic celery. Be careful when making ants-on-a-log for your kids.

3. Grapes

Grapes came in at number three on the Dirty Dozen list and results from the test found that one grape alone contained 15 pesticides. Think about that the next time you decide to eat an unwashed grape.

Stick with organic to avoid the many pesticides found on these berries.
Stick with organic to avoid the many pesticides found on these berries.
Photo courtesy of Fried Dough

2. Strawberries

If you thought that 15 pesticides on one grape were scary, the EWG found about 60 different types of pesticides on strawberries. Strawberries are not strangers to the Dirty Dozen list, however. Because strawberries develop fungus on the skin, they must be sprayed with toxins and chemicals to eliminate the fungus and other microorganisms, causing them to retain the pesticides even after they are harvested and sent to the supermarkets for retail.

Apples came in at number one on the Dirty Dozen List.
Apples came in at number one on the Dirty Dozen List.
Photo courtesy of msr

1. Apples

Be wary of the saying, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." Apples came in at number one on this year's Dirty Dozen list out of all fruits and vegetables. The apples used in EWG's tests came back positive for at least one pesticide 99 percent of the time.

The other fruits and vegetables to make the Dirty Dozen List include spinach, sweet bell peppers, imported nectarines, cucumbers, potatoes, cherry tomatoes and hot peppers.


Clean Produce

You will be happy to hear that out of the 15 fruits and vegetables to make the Clean 15 List, all fruits had no more than four types of pesticides and only 7 percent of the fruit samples contained one pesticide. The top five produce items in descending order are cabbage, avocado, pineapple, onions and corn. If you don't want to have to buy all of your fruits and vegetables from the organic section of the grocery store, no need to worry because you have plenty of choices without an alarming amount of pesticides.

Other fruits and vegetables on the clean list include frozen sweet peas, papayas, mangoes, asparagus, eggplant, kiwi, grapefruit, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes and mushrooms.

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