‘Dirty Dozen’ 2021 reveals top produce you need to watch out for

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Environmental Working Group’s annual list joins the Clean Fifteen in evaluating fruit and veggie pesticide residue

Each year, the Environmental Working Group releases a list of the top 12 vegetables and fruits that have the highest pesticide residue levels.

This year’s Dirty Dozen list sees newcomers bell peppers and hot peppers join the lineup at No. 10. Additionally, kale is joined by collard and mustard greens in the No. 3 spots for fresh produce with the highest traces of pesticides.

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“Whether organic or conventionally grown, fruits and vegetables are critical components of a healthy diet,” EWG toxicologist Thomas Galligan, Ph.D., said in a press 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 Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen are part of EWG’s annual Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. The list evaluates test data from the Department of Agriculture to identify the fresh vegetables and fruits that have the highest and lowest levels of pesticide residues.

Results of this year’s USDA tests show that nearly 70% of nonorganic fresh produce sold in the U.S. has residues of possibly harmful chemical pesticides. The USDA washes, scrubs and peels fruits and vegetables before testing them.

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Despite the findings of the list, experts say it shouldn’t affect grocery store trips.

“This list should have no impact on your shopping habits,” Tamika Sims, senior director of food technology at the International Food Information Council told USAToday. The organization Sims is part of is a nonprofit backed by food, beverage and agricultural industries.

Sims also noted that organic and nonorganic foods are not regulated more than the other, adding that organizations including the USDA and Food and Drug Administration “work conservatively to make sure all these fruits and vegetables are safe for consumption.”

Grocery shoppers who still feel concerned about the Dirty Dozen list can also elect to purchase frozen foods, Sims said. According to the American Council on Exercise, these versions are “just as good as the fresh” options.

Still, the EWG also released a list of produce that has the least amount of pesticide residue, called the Clean Fifteen. Avocados, sweet corn, pineapple, onions and papaya made the top five on the list.

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EWG’s 2021 Dirty Dozen list

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

EWG’s 2021 Clean Fifteen list

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Onions
  5. Papayas
  6. Sweet peas (frozen)
  7. Eggplants
  8. Asparagus
  9. Broccoli
  10. Cabbages
  11. Kiwis
  12. Cauliflower
  13. Mushrooms
  14. Honeydew melons
  15. Cantaloupes