On March 25, 2020, the Environmental Working Group, or EWG, put out the 2020 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. This report includes the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen. Click here to read the full report. The EWG puts out these lists to help consumers, like you and I, identify the produce that is the most contaminated with pesticide residues.

Ideally, we would buy 100% organic 100% of the time. But, let’s be realistic. Sometimes the cost difference is too drastic to justify. Other times, you may only have conventional as an option. In general, it is good to be familiar with the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen so you can make the most educated decision when shopping.


If you had an option to buy organic  strawberries, spinach or kale, you would want to go for the organic. Strawberries, spinach, and kale are the top three most contaminated produce items of 2020. According to the EWG report, “more than 90 percent of samples of strawberries, apples, cherries, spinach, nectarines, and kale tested positive for residues of two or more pesticides. Multiple samples of kale showed 18 different pesticides.”


When considering the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen, remember to follow the items throughout the store, not just in the produce aisle. For example, apples are the number 5 most contaminated produce item of 2020. Apples continue to show up on the Dirty Dozen list year after year, just changing positions. “I don’t care about spots on my apples, leave me the birds and the bees, please!” Since apples are heavily contaminated with pesticides, you want to make sure you choose organic when buying any form of apple. For example, go organic with: apple cider, apple juice, applesauce, etc.



The EWG’s Dirty Dozen for 2020:

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale
  4. Nectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Peaches
  8. Cherries
  9. Pears
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Celery
  12. Potatoes

The EWG’s Clean Fifteen for 2020:

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapple
  4. Onions
  5. Papaya
  6. Sweet peas (frozen)
  7. Eggplants
  8. Asparagus
  9. Cauliflower
  10. Cantaloupes
  11. Broccoli
  12. Mushrooms
  13. Cabbage
  14. Honeydew melon
  15. Kiwi

As for the Clean Fifteen, here is what the EWG had to say: “With the exception of cabbage, all other products on the Clean Fifteen tested positive for four or fewer pesticides. Almost 70 percent of Clean Fifteen fruit and vegetable samples had no pesticide residues. Multiple pesticide residues are extremely rare on Clean Fifteen vegetables. Only 7 percent of Clean Fifteen fruit and vegetable samples had two or more pesticides.”

You can see how the Clean Fifteen truly contains fewer pesticides than items from the Dirty Dozen. Why might you want to avoid pesticides? Reduced pesticide exposure is linked to a variety of health benefits, according to to this article published in a peer-reviewed journal this year. The more organic foods you consume, the lower your pesticide exposure. Other studies have shown that higher consumption of organic food leads to lower urinary pesticide levels, improved fertility and birth outcomes, reduced incidence of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and lower BMI.

If you are unsure whether organic food is worth it, take this statement from the EWG in closing, “…so far, the clinical trials for organic foods have been short-term studies spanning days to months, although health benefits from eating organic foods may take much longer to become evident. Until long-term clinical trials are completed, the published observational studies provide the best evidence in support of eating organic.”

Don’t panic, go organic! 

Do you need help revamping your pantry or refrigerator? Do you wish someone would create an all-organic meal plan and shopping list for you? Click here to contact Raquel to schedule a Holistic Nutrition Consultation.