We need to be cautious about the food we eat. Organic fruits and veggies should be at the center of every nutritious meal. But, this is not always possible. So, how do we determine the number of unwanted chemicals in those fruits and vegetables to keep our exposure to the minimal? Luckily for us, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) samples different varieties of conventionally grown farm produce annually to check their chemical composition. In the 2018 report, a whopping 70 percent of all the products tested were contaminated with at least one pesticide residue.

Topping the list this time were strawberries which shockingly bagged more than 20 different pesticide residues. The reason behind strawberries leading in the list is that they don’t have a protective layer and since they grow too close to the ground, they absorb a fair amount of the pesticides. It’s much safer to eat organic, but sometimes it’s just impossible due to circumstances such as location or availability. In such cases, having the right information will protect you from buying fruits and vegetables with a high concentration of pesticides.

Pesticide Use

Although the use of pesticides protects crops from insects and diseases, their side effects could be life-threatening in the long run. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) acknowledges the fact that if such products are consumed at a certain rate, the toxic levels can be worrying.

What’s the Way Forward?

Obviously, you can’t stop consuming your favorite fruits and veggies to avoid ingesting the poisonous chemicals. But the information released by the EWG should guide you to make better choices. In the report, the crops were ranked based on tests conducted on over 30,000 samples by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in conjunction with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). According to a senior analyst at EWG, foods with thicker out layer that you don’t consume contains fewer pesticide residues compared to the thin edible skin of crops like spinach. The EWG released two lists: the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean Fifteen”.

EWG’s 2018 Dirty Dozen Foods

The following is a list of fruits and vegetables with the highest concentration of pesticide residue.

  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 group also added a bonus food on the list: hot peppers. Although they didn’t meet the ranking criteria, they were found to contain dangerous levels of insecticides. But, this doesn’t mean that you should avoid them completely. The group advises us to find organic fruits and vegetables where possible and to cook them to reduce the effects of the chemicals. ”

EWG’s 2018 Clean Fifteen

This group contains the least amounts of pesticide residues and you can even buy the conventionally grown produce. They are safer for consumption with avocado being the cleanest packing only one percent of detectable pesticide residue.

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Cabbages
  5. Onions
  6. Sweet peas (frozen)
  7. Papayas
  8. Asparagus
  9. Mangoes
  10. Eggplants
  11. Honeydew melons
  12. Kiwis
  13. Cantaloupes
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Broccoli

Health Risks Associated with Pesticide Use

Pesticides are toxic chemicals and exposure to them through the foods we eat can have negative health effects on our bodies, especially if consumed in large quantities. A study by the Harvard School of Public Health found a connection between consuming high-pesticide-residue food and fertility issues in women. The research discovered that women who consumed a meal with more than two servings of fruits and vegetables in the ‘dirty dozen’ had a 26 percent lower probability of a successful pregnancy compared to women who consumed less than one serving of those foods a day.

ther health issues include damage to the brain and nervous system, hormonal disruption and cancer. Eaten in small amounts, the effects of these pesticides may be negligible. The problem comes when you consume such crops over a long period of time resulting in accumulation of chemicals in your body.

Going All Organic

This report is not meant to scare Americans, but rather to offer insight into what we eat and give us options on other healthier choices. The use of pesticides is not just limited to conventional crops. Organic farmers also battle with organisms that affect crops and they use organic pesticides on their farms. The main advantage is that organic pesticides are created from natural sources and their toxic levels are minimal.


In essence, eating fruits and vegetables enhances your overall health. Most of these crops reduce the risk of developing certain health conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and heart diseases. They are also important in weight loss due to their fiber content which keeps you satiated for longer. With the right information, you can reduce exposure to harmful chemicals by limiting the consumption of high-pesticide-residue fruits and vegetables.


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