Of all the annual lists released each year, few are as disheartening at the “Dirty Dozen” where those frustrating realists at the Environmental Working Group tell us which of the healthiest foods we eat are most covered in pesticides. They’re like the non-profit research group equivalent of your friend who says, “Why be healthy? We’re all going to die anyway.”
For the second year in a row, strawberries have topped the EWG’s list, which is based on USDA tests of 48 types of produce, according to USA Today. Around 70 percent of the thousands of samples of strawberries analyzed reportedly contained pesticides, 178 different types of pesticides in all. Spinach, which ranked #8 last year, jumped up to the second spot this year. The rest of the Dirty Dozen (in order) included:
- Healthy Dish Swaps
- Chefs Know Best: Kitchen Clean-up Tips
- Kitchen Sink Salad (or How to Clean Out Your Fridge)
Sweet bell peppers
“Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is essential no matter how they're grown,” EWG senior analyst Sonya Lunder was quoted as saying, reminding us the list shouldn’t be an excuse to go on an all-candy bar diet, “but for the items with the heaviest pesticide loads, we urge shoppers to buy organic.” She also explained why strawberries are so prone to winding up atop this list. “A crop like strawberries will always have lots of pesticide residues because they are vulnerable to pests, they grow directly in the soil, have a high water content and lack a protective outer peel,” said Lunder.
On a more positive note, EWG also includes what it calls “The Clean Fifteen” ranking the foods with the least pesticides on them. Sweet corn topped the list, followed by avocados, pineapples, cabbage, onions, frozen sweet peas, papayas, asparagus, mangoes, eggplant, honeydew melon, kiwi, cantaloupe, cauliflower and grapefruit. The obvious takeaway: Avocados are just awesome in every way. Sweet corn… yeah, you’re fine too.
All that being said, as we stated when we reported on the list last year, some people have come out against the report, which has been published since 2004, suggesting that the potential that people may be discouraged against eating fruits and vegetables has a more negative effect than what people might face from small amounts of pesticides.