The Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen

The Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen

In This Article

Pesticides and Preservatives in Food

*Revised and updated to show the EWG 2017 Lists*

Pesticides and preservatives have infiltrated their way into almost all the food consumed in America and can store in the body’s fat, including the brain, for years. Industrial wastes have permeated our groundwater and can enter our bodies simply by washing our organic veggies with tap water. Over time these stored chemicals undermine our immunity, render us susceptible to disease, infection and premature aging.

Recently, the Environmental Working Group released the 2015 edition of its Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce with updated information on fruits and vegetables and their total pesticide loads. EWG highlights the worst offenders with its Dirty Dozen list and the cleanest conventional produce with its Clean Fifteen list.

Don’t miss out on your chance to learn which fruits and vegetables have the most pesticides, plus the ones that are generally safe even if not organic.

2 Main Lists of Fruits & Veggies:

  1. The Dirty Dozen – Twelve fruits and veggies that you should try to avoid or to eat organic.
  2. The Clean Fifteen – A list of clean veggies that are mostly safe to eat even if they are not organic.

The Dirty Dozen

The FDA tells us that all non-organic fruits and veggies have safe and harmless levels of pesticides, while The President’s Cancer Panel recommends consumers eat produce without pesticides to reduce the risk of cancer and disease.

The Dirty Dozen list takes washing and peeling into account. Washing is important to remove bacteria but obviously has little effect on removing pesticides since there can still be chemicals internally. If you are going to buy any of the fruits or veggies listed in The Dirty Dozen we highly recommend buying only organic.

Pesticides can be extremely toxic to human health and the environment. U.S. and international government agencies alike have linked pesticides to nervous system toxicity, cancer, hormone system disruption and IQ deficits among children.

Pesticides are toxic. They’re designed to kill bugs, it’s hard to believe that any amount is safe. Their effects can be associated with a host of very serious health problems in people, including neurological deficits, ADHD, endocrine system disruption and cancer.

image courtesy of environmental working group – get the full list on their website at

The Dirty (Bakers) Dozen List:

1. Strawberries

  • More than three-fourths of the fresh strawberries sold in the U.S. are grown in California. California data show that in 2014, nearly 300 pounds of pesticides were applied to each acre of strawberries – an astonishing amount, compared to about five pounds of pesticides per acre of corn, which is considered a pesticide-intensive crop.
  • Almost all samples – 99% – had detectable residues of at least one pesticide.
  • Always buy organic.

2. Spinach

  • One of the most contaminated green leafy vegetable.
  • As many 48 different pesticides.
  • Best to buy organic.

3. Nectarines

  • They rank up there with apples and peaches among the dirtiest tree fruit.
  • 33 different pesticides found.
  • Safer alternatives: watermelon, papaya, mango

4. Apples

  • Up to 42 different pesticides found.
  • Safer alternatives: watermelon, bananas, tangerines

5. Peaches

  • These are delicately skinned fruits in conventional orchards.
  • As many as 62 pesticides found.
  • Safer alternatives: watermelon, tangerines, oranges, and grapefruit.

6. Pears

  • Pears now rank sixth on the list, up from 22nd previously.
  • The amount of pesticide residues on pears more than doubled since 2010, from 0.6 parts per million to 1.3 parts per million.
  • The new pesticides detected on pears include fungicides, applied to control fungus and mold, as well as insecticides. This is troubling because there is very little research on the health effects of ingesting multiple pesticides.

7. Grapes

  • Imported grapes run a much greater risk of contamination than those grown domestically, only imported grapes make the Dirty Dozen list.
  • 34 different pesticides found.
  • Safer alternatives: kiwi, raspberries.

8. Celery

  • Has no protective skin, which makes it almost impossible to wash off the chemicals.
  • Up to 64 pesticides found.
  • Safer alternatives: broccoli, radishes, onions

9. Bell peppers

  • Peppers have thin skins that don’t offer much of a barrier to pesticides.
  • Tests have found 49 different pesticides. (Plus, they’re often heavily sprayed with insecticides.)
  • Safer alternatives: green peas, broccoli, and cabbage.

10. Cucumber

  • To get the best cucumbers, select the organic variety and look for those that are well-shaped and dark green. 
  • Good source of vitamin C, but best to buy organic.

11. Cherry Tomatoes

  • Tested positive for 14 pesticides.
  • Choose plump tomatoes that have skins free from bruises and cracks, and wash thoroughly before eating.

12. Snap Peas (imported)

  • A newcomer to this year’s list of dirtiest foods.
  • Show 13 different pesticides.

13. Potatoes

  • America’s favorite vegetable!
  • Can be laced with as many as 37 different pesticides.
  • Safer alternatives: eggplant, cabbage, and earthy mushrooms.

The Clean Fifteen List

To ensure that you and your family are safe and healthy, eat organic whenever possible. The Clean Fifteen are fruits and vegetables that are considered safe by the EWG to eat even when not organic. If you simply shift to eating more from the Clean Fifteen list, you will at least have a measurable drop in your pesticide consumption levels.

All the produce on The Clean Fifteen bore little to no traces of pesticides and is safe to consume in non-organic form.

This list includes:

  • Avocados
  • Sweet Corn
  • Pineapples
  • Cabbage
  • Sweet Peas (frozen)
  • Onions
  • Asparagus
  • Mangoes
  • Papayas
  • Kiwi
  • Eggplant
  • Grapefruit
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cauliflower
  • Sweet Potatoes

Why do some types of produce have more pesticides than others, you ask? If you eat something like pineapple or sweet corn, they have a protection defense because of the outer layer of skin. Not the same for strawberries and berries. In general, thin-skinned fruits and vegetables are more prone to absorbing pesticides.

The President’s Cancer Panel recommends washing conventionally grown produce to remove any residues. It won’t remove all the pesticides (because some are already absorbed), but you should still wash them to reduce pesticide exposure.

How to Choose

Choosing five servings per day of produce from the Clean Fifteen list would result in consuming fewer than two pesticides per day. If you were to choose five servings of produce from the Dirty Dozen list, it would result in consuming an approximate average of 14 different pesticides a day at unknown concentrations.

That said, if you can’t always buy organic due to your personal budget, it’s still better to eat fruits and vegetables than not at all. You could pick your favorite and buy that one organic. If you love apples, for example, consider according to USDA, pesticides showed up on 98% of the more than 700 apple samples tested. It’s possible that 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. So, buy organic, local apples.

Nature’s Natural Pesticide Detox

Every spring and fall certain foods are harvested that naturally provoke a cleansing response in the body. Sadly, most of us eat the same foods 365 days of the year and miss out on this seasonal detoxification. Today, in a world that has become more toxic than ever, seasonal detoxification is required.

In the fall, seasonal fruits like apples and pomegranates act as detoxifiers for the gut wall and villi. These and other fall-harvested fruits are great lymph movers and help to de-stagnate the lymphatic system, which commonly becomes congested.

Spring and fall harvested roots cleanse and pull toxic mucus off the gut wall and villi. Roots like dandelion, turmeric, goldenseal, Oregon grape, ginger, fenugreek, phyllanthus and picorhiza are great intestinal villi mucus pullers.

Some Cleansing Options

If changing your diet is hard for you, consider taking a look at some of our cleansing options. Our Free Short Home Cleanse is a 4-day self-guided cleanse that you can do at home. If you want a deeper cleanse that includes clearing the detox pathways and improving digestion, check out our self-guided Anytime Colorado Cleanse.


  1. EWG, Environmental Working Group
  2. CNN: Toxic America May 31, 2010
  3. What’s on my food (

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Dr. John

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