Skip to main content

Food for Thought

EAT UP Avocados are largely free of pesticide residue when they reach grocery stores. Organic strawberries are a better choice for those worried about pesticides. FROM LEFT: SUPERJOSEPH—GETTY IMAGES; SERGE VUILLERMOZ—EYEEM/GETTY IMAGES

Which foods are largely free of pesticides when they reach grocery stores? Avocados, sweet corn, and pineapples. That’s according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Each year, the EWG releases its Clean Fifteen list. The list names 15 fruits and vegetables. The EWG says these 15 contain the least pesticide residue. The EWG also ranks the 12 fruits and veggies with the

most pesticides. It calls this list the Dirty Dozen. This year, strawberries are at the top of the list. Spinach and kale are next. The EWG is a nonprofit group. It creates the lists with test results. The tests are done by two government agencies: The United States Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration. More

than 99% of these tests found pesticide levels that are acceptable according to federal standards. But the EWG thinks the standards are not strict enough. Research has shown a link between pesticides and health problems. “Reducing pesticide residue in the diet is a good way to reduce exposure and lower those risks,” Alexis Temkin told TIME. She is with the EWG.

Some people have pushed back against the EWG lists. They say the benefits of eating fresh produce outweigh any risks. The full lists are below.

Clean 15

  1. Avocados

  2. Sweet Corn

  3. Pineapples

  4. Sweet Peas

  5. Onions

  6. Papayas

  7. Eggplants

  8. Asparagus

  9. Kiwis

  10. Cabbages

  11. Cauliflower

  12. Cantaloupes

  13. Broccoli

  14. Mushrooms

  15. Honeydew Melons

Dirty Dozen

  1. Strawberries

  2. Spinach

  3. Kale

  4. Nectarines

  5. Apples

  6. Grapes

  7. Peaches

  8. Cherries

  9. Pears

  10. Tomatoes

  11. Celery

  12. Potatoes