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Apples Knock Celery Off of the Top of the Dirty Dozen Produce List


Eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables is a piece of health advice that no one should ignore. However, there are some drawbacks that should be considered when choosing the best produce for your family. For example, the nation’s second favorite fruit – the apple – was found to have the most pesticide residue of any other despite washing and peeling.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit research organization and public health advocacy group, has released its seventh annual report rating the 12 fruits and vegetables most often contaminated with pesticides, otherwise known as “The Dirty Dozen” and the 15 that were least likely to have pesticide residue, “The Clean Fifteen.” The group used USDA and FDA data on 53 fruits and vegetables.

Overall pesticide rankings were based on a calculation of six scores: the percentage of samples with detectable pesticides, the percentage of samples with two or more pesticides, average number of pesticides found on a single sample, average amount (parts per million) of all pesticides found, maximum number of pesticides found on a single sample, and total number of pesticides found on the commodity.

Read: How to Choose Safe Fruits and Vegetables

The group found that out of 700 samples tested, 98% of apples are contaminated with pesticides. The findings moved the fruit to the top of the Dirty Dozen list, bumping last years’ most contaminated produce (celery) to number 2. “We think what’s happening to apples is more pesticides and fungicides are being applied after the harvest so the fruit can have a longer shelf life,” said EWG analyst Sonya Lunder.

Strawberries, peaches, and spinach round out the top 5. (The full dirty dozen list is printed below.)

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"With the increased emphasis on eating more fruits and vegetables, we need to be vigilant about the food we're producing and serving," says Lunder. She suggests that when choosing any of the fruits or vegetables from The Dirty Dozen list, buy organic when possible. Washing with a produce wash is unlikely to help remove pesticides because they are taken up by the entire plant and reside on more than just the skin.

However, because organic produce is typically much more expensive, the EWG recognizes that not every family has the ability to make this choice. When not able to choose organic fruits and vegetables, Lunder suggests selecting an alternative from The Clean Fifteen. By choosing five servings off of this list, most people can lower the volume of pesticides they consume daily by 92%.

Read: Body Fat Tissue Stores Harmful Pollutants and Pollutants and Pesticides Linked to Type 2 Diabetes

Onions were found to be the lowest in pesticides, according to the study findings. Corn, pineapples, avocado, and asparagus were also in the top five.

Although the amounts of pesticides found by the EWG were in relatively small amounts, the chemicals do have known negative health effects, including neurological deficits, ADHD, endocrine system disruption, and cancer. Pregnant women and children are especially advised to avoid pesticide exposure.

The "EWG's 2011 Shoppers Guide to Pesticides in Produce" is available on the organization’s website for a small fee. An iPhone app will also be available in the near future. For a small donation, consumers may also have a version of the guide mailed as a bag tag that can be attached to reusable shopping bags.

The Dirty Dozen
1. Apples
2. Celery
3. Strawberries
4. Peaches
5. Spinach
6. Nectarines (imported)
7. Grapes (imported)
8. Sweet bell peppers
9. Potatoes
10. Blueberries
11. Lettuce
12. Kale/collard greens

The Clean 15
1. Onions
2. Corn
3. Pineapples
4. Avocado
5. Asparagus
6. Sweet peas
7. Mangoes
8. Eggplant
9. Cantaloupe (domestic)
10. Kiwi
11. Cabbage
12. Watermelon
13. Sweet potatoes
14. Grapefruit
15. Mushrooms