This Fruit Tops the Annual “Dirty Dozen” List. Again.

published Apr 12, 2018
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(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

How many times have you snacked on grapes or cherries while waiting in the checkout aisle of the grocery store? I mean, those cherries are just begging you to pop one into your mouth (and then take a long-range jump shot, aiming the pit at the butcher’s trash can).

But before you inhale a handful of fruit in the middle of Aisle 7 — and we’re not judging you — just think about what might be on those unwashed grapes and cherries.

The Environmental Working Group has released its annual “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce,” and now that’s all we can think about. The EWG’s guide is topped by its infamous “Dirty Dozen,” the fruits and vegetables that were discovered to contain the most pesticide residues and, for the second straight year, strawberries were named the dirtiest of the Dirty. According to the EWG, one-third of all the conventional strawberries it tested had traces of 10 or more pesticides.

The other 11 entries on the list are the same offenders as last year, although they’re in a slightly different order.

  • Nectarines
  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Peaches
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Tomatoes
  • Celery
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet bell peppers

By contrast, the group’s “Clean Fifteen” list — the foods with no pesticide residue, or only traces of them — included avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbages, onions, frozen sweet peas, papayas, asparagus, mangoes, eggplants, honeydew melons, kiwis, cantaloupe, cauliflower, and broccoli.

The EWG bases its reports on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s annual Pesticide Data Program (PDP), and despite the slightly unsettling findings, the USDA says that the “U.S. food supply is one of the safest in the world,” and that 99% of the foods it tested had levels of pesticide residue that were well below the tolerances deemed safe by the Environmental Protection Agency. Almost a full quarter of the products tested (23%) had no pesticide residue at all.

The EWG says that even thoroughly washing your produce can’t always remove all pesticide residue, and it encourages consumers to consider organic versions of its “dirtiest” offenders.

But produce advocacy groups are basically like Take both of your lists and get stuffed, EWG. “In light of today’s ‘dirty dozen’ list release, both government reports [from the USDA and EPA] are good news for consumers and show that the ‘list’ author’s contentions about residues and ‘dirty’ produce are unfounded, unsupportable and, in fact, may be harming public health efforts to improve the diets of Americans,” Teresa Thorne, the executive director of The Alliance for Food and Farming, said in a statement.

Regardless of which side you’re on, maybe just don’t eat those grapes until you’ve given them a wash.