Pesticides in Produce: What to Buy Organic
Do you love celery, peaches or sweet bell peppers? Hold on to your hat: if you’re buying these vegetables conventionally grown, you could be taking in nearly 70 different pesticides with each serving.

In fact, there are twelve fruits and vegetables nicknamed the “Dirty Dozen” because they contain such high levels of pesticides. Don’t worry, there’s also the “Clean 15”; a list of non-organic fruits and vegetables with little or no pesticides. Save these lists below and spread the word.

The Dirty Dozen

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) gets the credit for naming the “Dirty Dozen.” This nonprofit group discovered which fruits and vegetables contain the highest—and lowest—pesticide levels through diligent research involving over 100,000 pesticide reports from the USDA and the FDA. These pesticide levels are tested after the produce has been “power” washed by the USDA. The infamous Dirty Dozen are:


Bell peppers

Spinach, kale and collard greens

The EWG thinks the soft skin of these tasty fruits and veggies allows them to absorb more pesticides than other fruits and veggies. Their recommendation is to always buy organic when it comes to the Dirty Dozen.

The Dirty Dozen

The Clean 15

Thankfully the EWG also has a list of non-organic produce that contain little to no pesticides! Notice that many of these foods have a rind, tough skin or some sort of barrier—blocking out some of the pesticide absorption. Here are the Clean 15:

Sweet corn

Sweet peas
Kiwi fruit


Sweet potatoes
Sweet onions

If you want to be completely safe and can afford it, buy all of your produce organic. For many people, that just might not be realistic, so instead, commit to buying organic for the Dirty Dozen and thoroughly washing your produce.

Washing Produce

Okay, even though the Dirty Dozen’s pesticide levels were measured after being washed by the USDA, you should always wash all of your produce again once you’re at home. Research does not clearly show how much pesticide residue can be removed by washing—but it can eliminate surface pesticides. Also, you can wash away the germs and bacteria you picked up from the grocery cart, shopping belt or your shopping bags, and protect yourself from foodborne illness.

For a simple, all natural way to wash your produce, you’ll need white vinegar, water and a spray bottle or bowl. For hard-skinned fruits and veggies (like the Clean 15), pour equal parts of vinegar and water into a spray bottle; spray the produce, rub it in and then rinse. For soft-skinned produce (like the Dirty Dozen), mix equal parts vinegar and water in a bowl; soak the fruits and veggies for one to two minutes and rinse. If you’d rather purchase a produce wash, look for all-organic produce wash from your local health food store.