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March 4th, 2008 by Stefania Vaughan

For years, you've been able to choose foods with less fat or fewer additives. Now, with Environmental Working Group's 4th edition of the popular Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce, you can minimize your chemical exposure in the produce aisle. EWG always recommends organic, but you can't always find it. The new Guide features the 43 fruits and veggies with the most and least pesticides so you'll know which ones to buy organic, and which conventionally-grown ones are okay when organic isn't available. How'd they do it? EWG analyzed over 42,000 of the latest government tests for pesticide residues on commonly-eaten fruits and vegetables. Then they ranked the results based on six measures of pesticide loads, even after washing and peeling. Download your printer-friendly PDF Guide in English or Spanish today: http://www.foodnews.org/getguide/.

The Full List: 43 Fruits & Veggies


RANK

FRUIT OR VEGGIE

SCORE

1 (worst)

Peaches

100 (highest pesticide load)

2

Apples

96

3

Sweet Bell Peppers

86

4

Celery

85

5

Nectarines

84

6

Strawberries

83

7

Cherries

75

8

Lettuce

69

9

Grapes - Imported

68

10

Pears

65

11

Spinach

60

12

Potatoes

58

13

Carrots

57

14

Green Beans

55

15

Hot Peppers

53

16

Cucumbers

52

17

Raspberries

47

18

Plums

46

19

Oranges

46

20

Grapes-Domestic

46

21

Cauliflower

39

22

Tangerine

38

23

Mushrooms

37

24

Cantaloupe

34

25

Lemon

31

26

Honeydew Melon

31

27

Grapefruit

31

28

Winter Squash

31

29

Tomatoes

30

30

Sweet Potatoes

30

31

Watermelon

25

32

Blueberries

24

33

Papaya

21

34

Eggplant

19

35

Broccoli

18

36

Cabbage

17

37

Bananas

16

38

Kiwi

14

39

Asparagus

11

40

Sweet Peas-Frozen

11

41

Mango

9

42

Pineapples

7

43

Sweet Corn-Frozen

2

44

Avocado

1

45 (best)

Onions

1 (lowest pesticide load)

Note: We ranked a total of 43 different fruits and vegetables but grapes are listed twice because we looked at both domestic and imported samples.

View Full Data Set

Why Should You Care About Pesticides?

There is growing consensus in the scientific community that small doses of pesticides and other chemicals can adversely affect people, especially during vulnerable periods of fetal development and childhood when exposures can have long lasting effects. Because the toxic effects of pesticides are worrisome, not well understood, or in some cases completely unstudied, shoppers are wise to minimize exposure to pesticides whenever possible.

Will Washing and Peeling Help?

Nearly all of the data used to create these lists already considers how people typically wash and prepare produce (for example, apples are washed before testing, bananas are peeled). While washing and rinsing fresh produce may reduce levels of some pesticides, it does not eliminate them. Peeling also reduces exposures, but valuable nutrients often go down the drain with the peel. The best option is to eat a varied diet, wash all produce, and choose organic when possible to reduce exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.

How This Guide Was Developed

The produce ranking was developed by analysts at the not-for-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG) based on the results of nearly 43,000 tests for pesticides on produce collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration between 2000 and 2004. A detailed description of the criteria used in developing the rankings is available as well as a full list of fresh fruits and vegetables that have been tested (see below).

EWG is a not-for-profit environmental research organization dedicated to improving public health and protecting the environment by reducing pollution in air, water and food. For more information please visit www.ewg.org.