EWG’s Dirty Dozen Produce Guide is Here!

2013 Dirty Dozen produce guide (photo pin cc)

As much as I love supporting organic agriculture, my budget and busy life don’t allow me to buy organic all the time. Sometimes organic prices are simply out of reach (red peppers for $7 per pound?!) or I’m in a hurry and need to pick groceries up at the nearby supermarket which doesn’t have a very good organic selection. It’s reality folks, and I bet it’s true for many of you too.

The Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15

The Environmental Working Group’s Shoppers Guide to Pesticides in Produce is one of the most valuable resources I have found for figuring out how to make the best choices when I’m in a bind. The Dirty Dozen is a list of the fruits and vegetables most likely to be contaminated with pesticides linked to nervous system toxicity, cancer and hormone disruption. The Clean 15 lists the produce most likely to be free of those nasty pesticides – and therefore safer to buy conventional instead of organic.

Note: Get the most updated version of the guide here!

The guide is updated every year. Here are a few highlights from the 2013 guide:

  • Most contaminated fruits: apples, strawberries, grapes, peaches and imported nectarines.
  • Most contaminated vegetables: celery, spinach, sweet bell peppers, cucumbers, potatoes, cherry tomatoes and hot peppers.
  • The average potato had much higher total weight of pesticides than any other food crop.
  • Summer squash and leafy greens were not on the Dirty Dozen but have a special mention due to contamination with highly toxic organophosphates and banned organochlorine pesticides.
  • Genetically modified plants, or GMOs, are not often found in the produce section of grocery stores but the GMO item most likely to be found is zucchini.

My biggest concern? Many of the most popular kids foods (apples, strawberries, potatoes, cucumber) are on the Dirty Dozen list. Keeping my children’s diet clean is my biggest priority so I do my best to buy those foods organic.

Addressing the Naysayers

You’ve probably heard some of the stories that organic isn’t important and that pesticides are not a problem. The EWG does a good job of addressing some of those concerns in its FAQs section. Trade group lobbyists put a lot of false and misleading information out there to try to discredit the organic movement – don’t believe them!

Donate to EWG if you can!

Big shoutout to the Environmental Working Group for creating this amazing list every year! To support their efforts, I made a donation today! Please consider donating a little something if you can!

Do you use the Dirty Dozen to guide your produce purchases? What foods do you most often buy organic?

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photo credit: mricon via photopin cc

About Micaela

Micaela Preston is a marketing and communications consultant specializing in natural, organic and eco-friendly products and the health and wellness space. Micaela is available as a social media manager, green lifestyle writer, public speaker, brand ambassador and marketing manager.


  1. Alliance for Food and Farming says:

    Both organic and conventional produce is safe. Don’t fall prey to fear tactics by a fundraising organization (they use a $6 million budget to try to make people fear fruits and vegetables!) We ask you to learn the Facts here:

    • Friends – just want you to know that the Alliance for Food and Farming, who commented on this post, is funded by Monsanto to try to discredit the organic movement. Please don’t listen to their propaganda! Instead, read up on the negative impacts of pesticides on children’s health: http://www.panna.org/publication/generation-in-jeopardy

      • Thanks for your post! I agree – Although buying organic is ideal, it’s become so far out of reach (especially in the winter!). I participated in a local CSA last year and loved the results – I had 22 weeks of an organic bounty. When the winter hit, I did have to purchase a few non-organic selections.

        The EWG list has helped me become a smarter consumer. I’m glad you pointed out the connection with Alliance for Food & Farming with Ag-giant Monsanto who doesn’t even want us to know which foods are GMO or not. If there’s not a difference, what’s to hide?!

        • I’m with you Julie – the EWG’s list is such a fantastic resource. We have an organic CSA too – but it’s harder to buy all organic in the winter months – especially in Minnesota, where I live.

          • sharon says:

            How do you know that your CSA doesn’t use herbicides, insecticides or pesticides?

          • Micaela says:

            You have to ask them Sharon. I’m sure they will tell you if you ask.

          • You do have to ask. Mine does say (straight from its website: “Although we are not certified organic we use primarily certified organic techniques, making exceptions in cases such as potential significant crop loss, as in tomato blight. We use no synthetic pesticides or herbicides on our farm.”)

            I signed up again because it’s local (wife-farmer business), you can select what you receive each week, primarily organic and I’ve had an amazing experience. I’ve also found a few bugs in my kale and my roommate found a worm in her peach – I can guarantee it’s mostly organic! 😉

      • Thank you so much for the additional resource Micaela. Obviously choosing fruits and vegetables over processed garbage is ideal in any scenario, but pesticides are designed to kill. It only makes sense that we should do all we can to limit our (and our family’s) exposure to them. For “Alliance for Food and Farming” to suggest that EWG’s efforts to help families do reduce their exposure is a ruse to scare people away from eating produce is just absurd and a laughable attempt at discrediting them!

        • Absurd and laughable – you are so right Amanda – especially coming from a Monsanto-funded front organization. I just made a donation to the EWG to help keep their fabulous efforts going!

          • I agree 100%. I’m getting so frustrating seeing these smear campaigns from various industries attacking those trying to promote healthy, clean living. Hopefully consumers can find the truth – although it’s getting more difficult each day to distinguish!!


  1. Link Love 5.10.13 | Mama and Baby Love says:

    […] Environmental Working Group just came out with their  updated Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 list. It’s a helpful guide to help you pick and choose which produce to get organic if you […]

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