The Environmental Working Group has released its annual best and worst lists of fresh produce based on pesticide residues.

The lists — released under the trademarked Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen — are based on results of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Data Program. The Environmental Working Group does not do in-depth review of the government’s pesticide testing program’s results. Instead the non-profit group pulls the “most contaminated” fresh produce items based on raw data.

According to the USDA, the Pesticide Data Program (PDP) is a national pesticide residue monitoring program and produces the most comprehensive pesticide residue database in the U.S. The Monitoring Programs Division administers PDP activities, including the sampling, testing, and reporting of pesticide residues on agricultural commodities in the United States. food supply, with an emphasis on those commodities highly consumed by infants and children. The program is implemented through cooperation with state agriculture departments and other federal agencies.

The USDA routinely points out that almost all of the fresh fruits and vegetables tested — usually about 99 percent — are well within the acceptable limits for pesticide residues.

Here are the Environmental Working Group’s lists for this year. The “dirty” list is in order from worst to best and the “clean” list is in order from best to worst.

“Dirty Dozen”

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale, and collard and mustard greens
  4. Nectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Bell and hot Peppers
  8. Cherries
  9. Peaches
  10. Pears
  11. Celery
  12. Tomatoes

“Clean Fifteen”

*A small amount of sweet corn, papaya and summer squash sold in the United States is produced from genetically modified seeds. Buy organic varieties of these crops if you want to avoid genetically modified produce.

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn*
  3. Pineapple
  4. Onions
  5. Papaya*
  6. Sweet peas — frozen
  7. Asparagus
  8. Honeydew melon
  9. Kiwi
  10. Cabbage
  11. Mushrooms
  12. Cantaloupe
  13. Mangoes
  14. Watermelon
  15. Sweet Potatoes

“Pesticide residues were found on over 70 percent of the non-organic produce tested by the USDA and FDA, continuing a problem highlighted in last year’s report,” according to the Environmental Working Group’s statement announcing the lists.

“Everyone should eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, no matter how they’re grown,” said EWG Toxicologist Alexis Temkin, Ph.D. “But shoppers have the right to know what potentially toxic substances are found on these foods, so they can make the best choices for their families, given budgetary and other concerns.”

The Environmental Working Group’s Science Analyst Sydney Swanson said in the announcement that the group recommends that, whenever possible, consumers purchase organic versions of “Dirty Dozen” produce. When organic options are unavailable or unaffordable, the group advises shoppers to buy produce from its “Clean Fifteen.” This year, almost 70 percent of “Clean Fifteen” samples had no detectable pesticide residues whatsoever, according to the Environmental Working Group.

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