The Dirty Dozen is a list of food products that have the most pesticides and the Clean Fifteen is a list of food products that have the least pesticides, as decided by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). The EWG is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment. They research genetically modified organisms (GMO/GE) and the amount of pesticides in and on our food.
These lists are updated every year. The guide is based on results of more than 35,200 samples tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration.
The EWG states that “More than 70 percent of non-organic fresh produce sold in the U.S. contains residues of potentially harmful pesticides”. This year they found that over 50 percent of potatoes, spinach, lettuce and eggplant had detectable levels of at least one of three bee-killing neonic insecticides banned in the European Union but still allowed for use on U.S produce.
Regardless of how they are grown, a healthy diet includes a combination of fruits and vegetables. However, these harmful pesticides can be found on many fruits and vegetables, even after they are washed, peeled or scrubbed, which the USDA does before testing.
Several review articles have shown that consuming produce with high pesticide residue can increase the risk of negative health impacts and may decrease the beneficial effects of fruit and vegetable consumption, including protection against cardiovascular disease and mortality.