EWG’s 2018 Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 Lists (and Why “Experts” Are Telling Us to Ignore Them)

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By the author of Be Ready for Anything and the online course Bloom Where You’re Planted

It’s that time of the year again! EWG has announced it’s annual “Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen” list of the foods that are the most contaminated with pesticides. Meanwhile, nutrition “experts” are telling consumers that the list isn’t important and that we should completely ignore the shopper’s guide.

Why is this list so important?

“It is vitally important that everyone eats plenty of produce, but it is also wise to avoid dietary exposure to toxic pesticides, from conception through childhood,” said Sonya Lunder, senior analyst with EWG. “With EWG’s guide, consumers can fill their fridges and fruit bowls with plenty of healthy conventional and organic produce that isn’t contaminated with multiple pesticide residues.” (source)

Studies suggest that consuming pesticide-laden food can result in many different health issues.

After countless studies, pesticides have been linked to cancerAlzheimer’s DiseaseADHD, and even birth defects. Pesticides also have the potential to harm the nervous system, the reproductive system, and the endocrine system. Pesticides can even be very harmful to fetuses because the chemicals can pass from the mother during pregnancy or if a woman nurses her child. Although one piece of fruit with pesticides won’t kill you, if they build up in your body, they can be potentially detrimental to your health and should be avoided as much as possible. (source)

Since most of us can’t afford a diet of organic, locally-grown pesticide-free food, the Environmental Working Group came up with an annual list that can help you decide what to buy conventional and what to buy organic. Here were some of their most important findings this year:

  • More than one-third of strawberry samples analyzed in 2016 contained 10 or more pesticide residues and breakdown products.
  • More than 98 percent of samples of strawberries, peaches, potatoes, nectarines, cherries and apples tested positive for residue of at least one pesticide.
  • Spinach samples had, on average, almost twice as much pesticide residue by weight compared to any other crop.
  • Avocados and sweet corn were the cleanest. Less than 1 percent of samples showed any detectable pesticides.
  • More than 80 percent of pineapples, papayas, asparagus, onions and cabbages had no pesticide residues.
  • No single fruit sample from the Clean Fifteen tested positive for more than four pesticides.

Read on for the EWG’s lists.

The Dirty Dozen: These are the most contaminated foods


When you go shopping, you should look for the organic version of these foods. The conventional varieties have the highest levels of pesticides that you’ll find.

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Nectarines
  4. Apples
  5. Grapes
  6. Peaches
  7. Cherries
  8. Pears
  9. Tomatoes
  10. Celery
  11. Potatoes
  12. Sweet bell peppers

The Clean 15: These are the less contaminated foods


The Clean 15 list suggests the produce that is least likely to contain pesticide residue. However, if you’re avoiding GMOs, it’s important to note that this list does not take genetic modification into account – this is only about pesticides.

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapple
  4. Cabbage
  5. Onions
  6. Frozen sweet peas
  7. Papaya
  8. Asparagus
  9. Mangoes
  10. Eggplant
  11. Honeydew melon
  12. Kiwi
  13. Cantaloupe
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Broccoli

But many “experts” are saying we should ignore the Dirty Dozen list.


Sadly, many people touted as nutrition experts say that the lists aren’t relevant.

Here’s what some of them had to say.

“Pro-choice” nutritionist Toby Amidor wrote:

These “shoppers’ guides” are a disservice to consumers and confusing because they are not based upon sound science and are often in direct conflict…Among the key findings, misleading messaging which inaccurately describes certain fruits and vegetables as having “higher” pesticide residues results in low-income shoppers reporting that they would be less likely to purchase any fruits and vegetables – organic or conventional. There is a plethora of research which shows eating any form of fruit and vegetables provides more health benefits than skipping them altogether. (source)

Carl K. Winter, PhD, food toxicologist and vice chair of food science and technology at the University of California Davis:

[Winter] says the amounts of pesticides found on produce are ”tiny”…Based on the report, he says, “I worry that people are becoming concerned when they should not be.” (source)

The Alliance for Food and Farming (AFF) says that the EWG’s conclusions are “unsupportable”:

  • A University of California toxicology analysis found that a child could eat hundreds to thousands of servings of a fruit or vegetable in a day and still not have any effects from pesticide residues. This shows how minute residues are, if present at all.
  • According to the FDA, washing produce under running tap water can reduce and often eliminate pesticide residues, if they are present at all.
  • Scientists and health experts have urged consumers not to rely on this type of list to make produce shopping choices since these lists are not science-based and often provide contrasting recommendations. (source)

Teresa Thorne, executive director of the Alliance for Food and Farming, an industry group representing farmers who grow both organic and conventional fruits and vegetables:

[Thorne] says ”the report is not science-based.” She points out that much of the research finding benefits to a diet rich in fruits and vegetables has been done on conventionally grown produce, not organic. (source)

I think the potential bias with the “Alliance for Food and Farmers” is obvious.

So what’s a shopper to do?


First of all, we each have to try and provide the best nutrition possible for our families while remaining within our budgets. (I wrote a popular article on making these decisions that you can find right here.) However, I sincerely believe that avoiding pesticides as much as possible is extremely important. I use the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 guide for my own family when making choices about what to purchase at the grocery store.

Pesticides are, by their very nature, poison. Why on earth would I deliberately feed them to my children? Pesticides aren’t the only concern out there in Groceryland, so I recommend avoiding them whenever possible.

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

Leave a Reply

  • The only way to truly know what you’re eating is to grow/raise it yourself or completely trust the person who did grow it.

  • Good point of view from the article. I appreciate the view from the other side, but what just makes me so …(whatever, mad, angry, irritated, ticked ) …about the ‘expert’ comments is that they make people feel stupid for questioning pesticides on fruits and vegetables. They seem to say, “if you were smart, like me, you’d know that there is no scientific basis for your uneducated opinion”. I know a family of farmers and this is exactly the way they defend their use of pesticides.
    I don’t know if you want to mess with this, but what do you think of the different vegetable washes? I use Young Living’s Thieves Veggie Wash. I like Young Living fairly well, but I’m not such a devotee that I can’t hear something negative about them. I don’t know that you would want to promote one over the other, but in general…do you think they are useful? Maybe an article idea? I’d read it, but then I read all of your articles. LOL Thanks again.

  • I find all this stuff about pesticides, GMOs and all that confusing. It’s clear that most sides of these discussions have a vested interest, even the “healthy” institute people. I don’t think people like Daisy have a vested interest, just an interest.

    Then there are all those smoothy mixes that are supposed to cure everything. I don’t believe that either. A green colored drink, yuck!

    Then the ads that say “try this overnight and it will cure your diabetes”, yeah, right. I don’t know who to believe anymore.

    Then there those paleo diet people that say eat no grain. Potatoes are the only carb left and that’s on the bad list. Arg

  • (Why experts are telling us to ignore them). It’s all about the money. The University of California toxicology testing in my mind is suspect. California has an enormous farm product industry. I think it only natural the University would find no issues on pesticide residue. Further, I wonder what happened to the studies of the impact of the ocean currents carrying residue from the Fukisima Nuclear Plant meltdown. One study I saw a couple of years ago cited the evidence that the ocean had markedly increase concentrations of strontium and cesium, which was postulated as having the potential of showing up in the rain falling on California. OK, call me an alarmist. I have since made sure not to purchase any dairy products such as butter, cheese and milk from California. Instead, those items, except for milk, are all East of the Mississippi products.
    With regards to summer produce such as peas, beans, tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, potatoes, eggplant, summer squash, zucchini, figs, apples, pears and onions, I grow them myself and can for future use. During the winter, I maintain a large garden of collards, turnips, broccoli, rutabaga and other leafy vegetables.
    As far as managing the bugs and worms, I leave that up to the flock of guineas I have roaming the property.
    As you can see, if you have the stamina and the property, there are pesticide free options without the cost.

  • There are so many things wrong with the western model of life. So many things are fake, artificial and contrived. We live in a world of lies. Women who artificially enhance their breasts so men will be attracted to them. Men who go to any length to hide that they are losing their hair. Fake food. You can’t see the pesticide, and those fruits and vegetables look so pretty all lined up on the shelf. Anything that doesn’t look pretty or is not formed perfectly gets discarded. There is an old guy who has a huge family farm at the end of my road. Nobody lives there now but he plants a huge garden every year. He gives me a little sampling of what he has. Two years back he pulled off a squash and pointed to a wormhole. He said to just cut the squash and remove the worm. Would anyone buy that squash? Not a chance. It has a worm in it. But if it is slathered with invisible pesticide and looks pretty it’s going on the dinner plate. We need to change our thinking. It’s not easy though when governments are constantly interfering and being bribed by big Ag. They make organic growers jump through hoops and dairy farmers can’t distribute raw dairy. We are only legally allowed to consume the poison.

  • Gee, you’re not biased, are you? I believe most vegetables and fruit are washed by the packing plants before they go to market. Also, only those pesticides and chemicals which are oil based could prove to be a problem, but to be so they must also be accumulative in the body. Americans on average are living 30 years long then they did just 100 years ago, and yet you consider our agri-farming technology a problem? You really do need to get a serious grip on reality my friend, as you about to blow a gasket in your hysterical belief that just everything is trying to kill us.

    • Interesting viewpoint. I wonder why other societies, including more primitive ones, had long lifespans until the western diet was introduced to them? I wonder why autism has become such a catastrophe, predicted to soon appear in 1 in every two children? I guess fluoride is added to the water in most western cities because the governing class loves us. And all that spraying in the skies above? No doubt, more love. Nothing to see or fear.

    • So, Rumple, are you claiming to know both the acute and the chronic effects of the ingestion of all pesticides in all combinations in all populations?

  • This is why I grow and can/ freeze as much of my own food as possible. I always go to local farm stands and talk directly to the farmers and their families so I find out what they have used. I also wash all store bought fruits/veggies in a vinegar wash.

  • The solution is simple. Avoid them as much as possible and stick with the clean ones listed. I myself have quit buying strawberries and try to buy organic as possible. Am aware of celery and try to buy organic or avoid them altother. I returned to potatoes when I was SHOCKED to find them selling non-gmo types now.

    Hadn’t eaten russet potatoes for decades!!

  • Paid industry shills and academics who prostitute themselves to industry for grant $ and well paid lectureships are beholden to their corporate gods and will say whatever is necessary to protect the bottom line and attempt to keep the masses in darkness so that they can continue to consume their toxified foods. They want more sick and diseased people as it is good for business. More drugs, more doctors, more surgeries, more insurance expenses. They hate people who think for themselves and make wise informed decisions about what they eat so that they can realize optimal health and stay divorced from the system.

  • I agree with all the replies that mentioned growing your own foods. That’s the best way to eat healthy, then it’s just the chemtrail residues, but what can you do? We’ve all got to eat.

    I agree that we can’t really rely on those lists. Papaya for example is on the clean 15 , even though most US papaya comes from Hawaii and is GMO. And for Rumplestiltskin, when it’s GMO, the pesticides are part of the plant product and cannot be washed.

    Oh and Rumple…investigate the Georgia Guidestones since you don’t seem convinced of the systematic nature of an evil will to dwindle our population https://vigilantcitizen.com/sinistersites/sinister-sites-the-georgia-guidestones/
    perhaps this will convince you to watch your back

  • OK … tho I know big agra uses pesticides, some things look a bit outta kilter here. Pesticides on above ground plants I can understand, but potatoes are grown underground (at least they were when I was a kid and picked potatoes in the fields of a nearby farm). Uh …. how are they on the “dirty” list?

    Then you have sweet corn on the “clean” list but I’ve read in more than one article over the past few years that almost ALL corn in the U.S. is GMO (some ADM/Monsanto frankenfood).

    I guess the best way to tell if you should eat it …. if the bugs won’t eat it then you shouldn’t either.

  • Grow most of my own veggies for a variety of reasons including residues as well as fun. But if I don’t have it better to buy than live without, and find the critics’ counterpoint that levels are low even on the “dirtiest” reassuring. Worry more about e coli, which is not a factor on these lists. As for GMOs, would you hate them so much if you didn’t hate Monsanto? And in the meantime nuclear and chemical mutagenesis gets a free ride? (Where did you think ruby grapefruit came from?)

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