New Report: 2021 Dirty Dozen & Clean 15

James Colquhoun JAMES COLQUHOUN

Every year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) analyzes the most recent USDA data to compile its infamous Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists. They’re lists we await with great anticipation, and we know our community does too, it’s really interesting to see how the standards around food safety and chemical exposure change from year to year.

To come up with this year's list, the EWG conducted a very basic experiment. The results are compiled by looking over USDA data on 46,075 samples of 46 of the most popular fruits and veggies, where they were washed and peeled before testing them for pesticides.

The lists aren’t meant to be a what’s hot and what’s not of the fruit and vegetables, but rather offer a guide of the foods you should definitely be striving to buy organic, and those where it may be okay to let slide from time-to-time.

2021’s Dirty Dozen

These are the worst offenders on the list, through no fault of their own, but rather mainstream agricultural practices. In order, these foods are the ones that are subject to the most dangerous chemical exposure. Following the EWG testing methodology, this list indicates which crops are typically treated with the highest volume and variety of pesticides (but stop at one step short of putting any labels on human health risk).

So to err on the side of caution, we definitely recommend you buy organic, or at least spray-free when picking these up from your local grower this year.

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale, collard, and mustard greens
  4. Nectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Cherries
  8. Peaches
  9. Pears
  10. Bell and hot peppers (capsicum and chili)
  11. Celery
  12. Tomatoes

The most notable difference this year has been the addition of peppers in spot 10, which is enough to make any foodie sad. We’ve used peppers throughout our Clean Eating Program, both for their sweet goodness and hint of spice, so make sure you’re buying organic when you’re topping the fridge up for our next group intake (it begins April 5)!

This Year’s Clean Fifteen

When you’re shopping for the following foods, still try to buy organic and spray-free where you can. But sometimes buying spray-free can be expensive, or it’s not possible to give your whole cart that certified organic tick, so these are the ones with the least amount of exposure, which you may be able to let slide every once in a while.

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

One thing you’ll notice is that most of these safe foods tend to have a tougher exterior, skin, or husk that is removed when prepared for eating. You could even see this as a suit of armor that protects the foods from the outside world so you can enjoy them in all their deliciousness.

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