EWG's 2013 Dirty Dozen List

The Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce™

Every year for the past nine years, the Environmental Working Group has published their Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce™ based on tests for pesticide residue conducted by the USDA and FDA. EWG specifically highlights "The Dirty Dozen™": produce likely to have a higher level of pesticide residue, which they recommend avoiding or purchasing organic. For the last couple years, EWG has expanded their Dirty Dozen™ list with a Plus category resulting in "The Dirty Dozen Plus™". The "Plus" refers to crops that do not meet traditional Dirty Dozen™ criteria but that were commonly contaminated with exceptionally toxic pesticides. Consumers should prioritize purchasing organic versions of these vegetables as well if possible. The produce with the least residue is termed "The Clean Fifteen™."

Use the The Dirty Dozen™ to Prioritize Purchases

This guide is not intended to scare you into not buying fruits and vegetables. Any produce is better than no produce. And conventional fruit and vegetables are certainly better than processed or packaged foods. Instead, this information is intended to help families who cannot afford to purchase all organic produce limit their exposure to pesticides, especially harmful to developing fetuses and young children. You can use the guide to substitute produce from The Clean Fifteen™ for The Dirty Dozen Plus™ (for example, I might decide our family will eat more kiwi and fewer apples), or use the guide to help you decide which produce you will buy organic and which you will buy conventional (for example, I might buy organic strawberries and conventional onions). When I first started going green, I found that selectively purchasing organic produce helped a lot with the sticker shock of switching to greener foods.

The 2013 Dirty Dozen Plus™ (starting with the worst/ dirtiest)
  1. apples - the dirtiest of the Dirty Dozen™
  2. strawberries
  3. grapes
  4. celery
  5. peaches
  6. spinach
  7. sweet bell peppers
  8. imported nectarines
  9. cucumbers
  10. potatoes
  11. cherry tomatoes
  12. hot peppers
  • PLUS: Kale/ Collard Greens
  • PLUS: Summer squash (zucchini, yellow crookneck squash)

The Clean Fifteen™ (starting with the best/ cleanest)
  1. sweet corn - the cleanest of the Clean Fifteen™
  2. onions
  3. pineapples
  4. avocados
  5. cabbage 
  6. sweet peas frozen
  7. papayas
  8. mangoes
  9. asparagus
  10. eggplant
  11. kiwi
  12. grapefruit
  13. cantaloupe
  14. sweet potatoes
  15. mushrooms

Note that the Dirty Dozen™ are all produce with thin edible skins, whereas the Clean Fifteen™ tend to be fruits and vegetables with thick skins you don't eat (pineapples, avocado, onions, melons). If you are avoiding GMO foods, EWG also recommends purchasing only organically-grown sweet corn (small fraction GMO), zucchini (small fraction GMO), and Hawaiian papaya (almost all GMO). In the US, GMO foods do not have to be labeled, but most produce (with the aforementioned exceptions) is not.

Other Helpful Tips

  • Eat fruits and vegetables! Any fruit, even fruit with pesticides, is better than no fruit. Remember that eating fruits and vegetables is much better than eating processed and packaged foods.
  • Think twice about buying conventional baby food. EWG reports that "results remained troubling for some baby foods purchased in American stores in 2011." For example, green beans tested positive for especially toxic organophosphates and perhaps even more troubling, pear samples tested positive for 11 pesticides including a probably carcinogen not registered for use on pears. To save money on baby food, consider making your own with organic ingredients.
  • Learn how to minimize exposure to toxins on any budget.  Check out EWG's useful guide Good Food on a Tight Budget, which describes 100 nutrient-rich foods at a good price, with the fewest pesticides, contaminants and artificial ingredients. 

Further reading from Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce™
Executive Summary
The Full List
Methodology and Highlights
Frequently Asked Questions, such as
  • Agribusiness claims pesticide residues are safe. Are they right?
  • What if I wash and peel my fruits and vegetables?


  1. Both organic and conventional produce is safe. Don't fall prey to fear tactics by a fundraising organization (they use a $6 million budget to try to make people fear fruits and vegetables!) We ask you to learn the Facts here: http://bit.ly/ZJBsHZ

  2. I think just about every blogger posting about EWG's Dirty Dozen is getting these comments with links back to SafeFruitsandVeggies.com, which is run by the Alliance for Food and Farming. There are studies showing conventional produce is safe. There are also lots of studies that show major concerns about pesticides. Sometimes it's helpful to find out who is funding studies. At any rate, nobody is suggesting people should consume less produce. However, if families want to expose their families to fewer pesticides, I'm all for giving them the tools to do it. It's a choice I make myself. If anyone has questions about the credibility of EWG, all they need to do is look up the credentials of their staff, and the methodology for their Pesticides in Produce report and see if you agree with it.

    In addition, even if you could completely convince me that pesticides are same for ME (and other people), runoff from pesticides and fertilizers from conventional farms are screwing up natural ecosystems. There are multiple reasons why consumers avoid pesticides.

  3. Thanks for this! I've noticed that since we had a baby (just turned 1), we are buying much more -- almost all, actually -- organic produce. Luckily, our local produce market has been increasing its selection of organic produce for the past couple of years, so we don't need to go to multiple places to find organics.

    Re: baby food -- it's entirely avoidable if people do Baby Led Weaning


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