Apples Declared the Dirtiest Fruit

By Nicole German (RD, LD)

dirty applesEvery year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases their list of the “dirty dozen” and our apple a day tops the list!

The EWG takes thousands of samples from the most common fruits and vegetables to determine which contain the most pesticides.

It almost makes me feel bad about the non-organic locally grown peaches I just bought.

How much does this report really matter to our health?

Let’s take a look!

Most Pesticide and Chemical Laden Produce

Listed from dirtiest to cleanest.

  1. Apples (98% of all apples tested contained significant pesticide residue)
  2. Celery
  3. Sweet bell peppers (Found 88 different pesticide residues including organophosphates)
  4. Peaches
  5. Strawberries
  6. Nectarines- imported to U.S.A. (Almost 100% of all tested contained heavy pesticides including organophosphates)
  7. Grapes
  8. Spinach
  9. Lettuce
  10. Cucumbers
  11. Blueberries- domestic U.S.A.
  12. Potatoes

Green beans and kale were also noted as vegetables that contain pesticides like organophosphates.

What are Organophosphates?

Organophosphates block an enzyme needed for nerve function in bugs and humans. They have been shown to cause early birth in pregnancy and lower baby weight. Organophosphates may be a carcinogen as well as a contributor to Alzheimer’s disease, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and ADHD.

Some organophosphates have been banned all over the world, while other types are restricted. But, some types are still in use.

Cleanest Produce

Listed from cleanest to dirtiest.

  1. Onionsclean onions
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapple
  4. Avocado
  5. Cabbage
  6. Sweet peas
  7. Asparagus
  8. Mangoes
  9. Eggplant
  10. Kiwi
  11. Cantaloupe- Domestic U.S.A.
  12. Sweet potatoes

Dirty Dozen Infographic

What to Make of All This?

Pesticides seem nasty and scary to be lingering on our fresh produce. Years ago, I read research about how we are still better off eating plenty of fruits and vegetables regardless of whether or not we buy organic. We get more antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals by eating produce rather than avoiding it.

Of course we can wash the produce well, but the EWG did its studies on produce that had been washed and peeled already. So, washing does not eliminate the pesticides.

Exposure to UV light and time helps to degrade the pesticides, but still does not eliminate them.

Pick and Choose Your Battles

Buying organic can get pricey. So, I would recommend buying organic for more of the foods on the dirty dozen list this year. As for everything else, buy organic when your budget can afford it.

If you are pregnant or have young children, it would be wise to buy more organic foods because the developing body is more sensitive.

Also, those that are chemically sensitive should avoid any exposure to pesticides and other crop chemicals.

Do you buy organic?


  1. Gopal Yadav

    Thank You for sharing this information I really helpful.

  2. Bernaze

    The Monsanto Corporation for all these wonderfull pestisides you produce which are slowly killing us of..
    Just what will you all do when we are all dead or dieing??????
    There will be no one to buy your products any more….Did your boys club ever think of that????

  3. kitekrazy

    EWG are most likely atheists, communists and Nazis with a hidden agenda to reflect their faith. Ted and Cindy see the light. Most environ”mental”ism spreads fear to gain control. Most of our economic downturn is due to environmentalists.

    • ted

      Spoken like a true republican…. I actually think the middle ground is best, either extreme is damaging.

  4. Sue

    No pun intended, but there’s a lot of food for thought here, especially for someone like me who eats a lot of vegetables and fruit. My Zone Diet eating plan is based on having most of my carbohydrates from vegetables and fruit. It pays to do our homework, as best we can, to ensure we have the safest ingredients in our kitchens.

  5. cindy

    I appreciate your concern for the safety of fresh produce. However, if you are going to make recommendations for consumers to follow you should do your homework.

    1) EWG did not test fresh produce, the USDA did the testing. EWG issues a biased report.

    2) several of the items on the list were not even tested in the last USDA report, but the EWG likes to keep them on their ‘dirty dozen’ list because they are popular fruits/veggies with consumers

    3) EWG uses this PR campaign as a way to raise funds to keep them in existance and pay their CEO his $250,000 annual salay

    • ted

      I wonder how much money EWG gets from the organic certifying organizations. As mentioned farmers have to pay quite a lot to get certified.

  6. Jessica

    Yes, I buy some of my vegetables and fruit organic, but not all. The list is helpful in this respect. I also pay a lot of attention to planning meals and making sure nothing goes to waste.

  7. Diane Lopez

    Uh. Too great I don’t really like apples. Now I have enough reasons why I hate apples. LOL! Thanks for the info.

  8. Spectra

    I eat a lot of the foods on the “dirty dozen” list quite frequently. However, I can’t afford to buy organic. So I buy conventional and wash them with a baking soda rinse. It probably doesn’t get all of the pesticides off, but it probably helps at least a little bit.

    • Karen

      We should all be outraged by this thank you Monsanta. Washing will not help as they are made to withstand Torrid rains of South America

  9. Heather

    Hmm as far as locally grown; isn’t getting the organic mark cost prohibitive for small farmers regardless of practices ?

    • ted

      If you go to your local farmers market often you can talk to the growers or suppliers and find out their practices. Some may not use pesticides etc., but can’t afford the certification.

    • Nicole German (RD, LD)

      Yes, good point, so I do the same as Ted. I always make local produce a priority over any organic. And just ask how they grow.