Since 2004, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has released an annual list of fruits and vegetables the group calls the Dirty Dozen, because they're deemed to contain the most pesticides. But there are a few surprises to this year's list.
While kale has been alone in the No. 3 spot since 2019 — the first time it made the list in 10 years — the group added mustard greens and collard greens alongside it. All three are known to be low in calories, high in fiber and have antioxidant qualities. Strawberries are No. 1 and spinach comes in at No. 2 on the list.
Bell peppers, tested for the first time since 2012, and hot peppers (chile peppers), came in at No. 10, knocking tomatoes to the No. 11 spot.
EWG's yearly Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce is based on test data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The group identified, according to a news release, which fresh fruits and vegetables contain the most and the least amount of pesticide residue. You can find the list at www.ewg.org.
Among the findings, the EWG cited included:
70% of non-organic fresh produce sold in the U.S. had pesticides. 20 different pesticides were found in a single sample of the three leafy greens in the No. 3 spot. 115 pesticides — the highest amount — were found on bell peppers.
“Whether organic or conventionally grown, fruits and vegetables are critical components of a healthy diet,” said EWG toxicologist Thomas Galligan in a news release. “We urge consumers who are concerned about their pesticide intake to consider, when possible, purchasing organically grown versions of the foods on EWG’s Dirty Dozen, or conventional produce from our Clean Fifteen.”
The annual report is not without controversy.
What’s important to note is that dietitians and health experts recommend that the overall goal is for Americans to increase their consumption of fruits and vegetables for a healthy, well-balanced diet.
The Alliance for Food and Farming (AFF), strong opponents of EWG's annual list, says it shows a negative impact on fruit and vegetable consumption.