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Dirty Dozen Fruits and Vegetables: What’s in Favorite Summer Salads?

Summer Salad Dirty Dozen Fruits and Vegetables

Every year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) issues its Dirty Dozen Fruits and Vegetables. This is a list of the twelve types of produce that are likely to be highest in pesticides. These “dirtiest” among fruits and veggies have been making the list since 2004.

The 2022 Dirty Dozen Fruits and Vegetables

This year, as has been the case for many years, strawberries have topped the list. Strawberries have been the leader among the Dirty Dozen Fruits and Vegetables for many years due to the high quantity of pesticides they absorb.

The list has been published since 2004 by the EWG, which is a nonprofit, nonpartisan environmental organization. The Dirty Dozen Fruits and Vegetables include the “dirtiest” among 47 popular produce items commonly found in supermarkets. It specifically measures the pesticides on and in these items and publishes the list in its Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce.

Why Care About the Dirty Dozen Fruits and Vegetables

The pesticides such as those found in the Dirty Dozen Fruits and Vegetables are technically poisons. They are chemicals used to kill unwanted plants, insects, rodents and molds. These chemicals are meant to be used at a level that will be toxic to pests but not to humans.

Aside from strawberries, spinach was next on this year’s Dirty Dozen Fruits and Vegetables. The rest, in order of “dirtiest” foods were spinach, kale/collard/mustard greens, nectarines, apples, grapes, bell/hot peppers, cherries, peaches, pears, celery and tomatoes. They all contained pesticide residues as well as higher pesticide concentrations than the other produce types tested.

How Dirty Are These Fruits and Veggies?

The 2022 list found that about 70 percent of non-organic, conventionally grown fruits ad veggies were contaminated with pesticides. The testing was high enough that this year’s shopper’s guide included a thirteenth item on the Dirty Dozen Fruits and Vegetables. Tests found that hot peppers were also notably higher in pesticides than other fruits and veggies.

The average strawberry sample contained 20 pesticides according to the testing. Over 98 percent of the tested strawberries, spinach, peaches, nectarines, cherries and apples contained at least one form of pesticide residue. The average spinach sample contained 1.8 times more pesticide residues than any other crop on the list, when measured by weight.

What Does This Mean to Your Shopping List?

This doesn’t necessarily suggest that the “dirty” crops are dangerous, many consumers appreciate the information. It is common to use the results on this list to determine which organic produce to buy, for instance.

There are, after all, many fruits and veggies that don’t absorb any pesticides – at least in the parts that you eat – which means that if you are choosing organic food exclusively for that reason, it might not be worth your while to choose those ones.  Fruits with thick peels that are removed and discarded, for example, rarely contain pesticides in their edible flesh.

It should also be pointed out that the Dirty Dozen Fruits and Vegetables aren’t bad for you. If you have a bowl of strawberries, you aren’t poisoning yourself.  What many people are concerned about is the quantity of the pesticide-heavier foods that they are consuming, particularly in combination with each other and consumed within a short span of time.

If you happen to be someone who eats a very large amount of strawberries, spinach and kale on an average day, for instance, then this could be helpful for you to know. You can be selective about which items you buy from the organic section or whether you want to eat all those Dirty Dozen fruits and vegetables within the same meal.