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Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Cooking and Produce


assorted fruits and vegetablesLists help consumers know how to choose produce wisely

Janet Hackert, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Harrison County, University of Missouri Extension


The Environmental Working Group has updated their Shopper’s Guide to Pesticide in Produce, with its worst findings listed as the “Dirty Dozen” and those least contaminated as the “Clean 15.” This report is intended to help consumers choose wisely when buying and eating produce.


The group looked at data collected from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tests from 2000 to 2009. The commonly consumed produce was then ranked based on six factors, including percent of samples tested with detectable pesticides, percent of samples with two or more pesticides, and average amount (levels in parts per million) of all pesticides found.


The “Dirty Dozen” list includes:

  1. Apples (highest in pesticides)
  2. Celery
  3. Strawberries
  4. Peaches
  5. Spinach
  6. Imported nectarines
  7. Imported grapes
  8. Sweet bell peppers
  9. Potatoes
  10. Domestic blueberries
  11. Lettuce
  12. Kale or collard greens


The “Clean 15” are:

  1. Onions (lowest in pesticides)
  2. Corn
  3. Pineapple
  4. Avocado
  5. Asparagus
  6. Sweet peas
  7. Mangoes
  8. Eggplant
  9. Domestic cantaloupe
  10. Kiwi
  11. Cabbage
  12. Watermelon
  13. Sweet potatoes
  14. Grapefruit
  15. Mushrooms


The Environmental Working Group suggests purchasing organic options from the “Dirty Dozen” list to reduce the amount of pesticides present. The organic label requires low to no pesticide use.


Other ways to know that produce is lower in pesticides is to grow it at home or purchase it directly from the grower: at a farmers market, roadside stand, orchard or farm. This way, the consumer can find out just how the produce was grown, and can request reduced use of pesticides or organically grown food for future purchase.


The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends making half the food on your plate fruits and vegetables. The “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” lists help consumers know when it is safe to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables from the supermarket and when they may want to find cleaner alternatives. You can also purchase unsweetened and low-salt, frozen, canned and dried options for more ways to fit in the fruits and vegetables needed for a healthy eating plan.


For more information on the group’s finding, go to or contact Janet Hackert at 660-425-6434 or


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Last update: Monday, April 16, 2012