top of page

In the Spotlight: Breaking Down the 2024 Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen

Just a few weeks ago, the Environmental Working Group's (EWG) published their annual list of the "Dirty Dozen" and "Clean Fifteen" produce, Their list has been an incredibly valuable resource to me when I'm navigating grocery shopping. It can be so challenging on so many levels to keep up with the ever-evolving landscape of nutrition and wellness, but I know staying informed about the quality of our food is important. These lists highlight the fruits and vegetables that are most and least likely to contain pesticide residues, and so they offer insights into making healthier choices for ourselves and the people we love.

Tomato Plant Farming Field

The Dirty Dozen

Let's start with the "Dirty Dozen," which ranks the top twelve produce items with the highest pesticide residues. Topping the list for 2024 are strawberries, a summer staple that unfortunately often contains the highest levels of pesticides. Following closely behind are spinach and kale, two leafy greens known for their nutritional benefits but also sadly prone to pesticide contamination as well. Notable fruits on this year's Dirty Dozen list include nectarines, apples, grapes, and peaches, and so this really highlights how important it is to choose organic options whenever possible so we can minimize our exposure to harmful chemicals that are used in our agricultural system.

Infographic with a list of the first five dirty dozen

Infographic with a list of the remaining dirty dozen

The Clean Fifteen

On the flip side, we have the "Clean Fifteen," which presents the fifteen veggies and fruits with the lowest pesticide residues. At the top of the list are avocados, one of my absolute favorites, which happen to also be a nutritious and versatile fruit known for its creamy texture and heart-healthy fats. Also making a solid appearance on the Clean Fifteen are sweet corn, pineapples, and onions, all of which have consistently demonstrated low levels of pesticide contamination. Other noteworthy members of the Clean Fifteen club include papayas, eggplants, and asparagus, and these can offer lots of options for adding whole foods that are pesticide-free, to your plate.

Infographic with a list of the clean fifteen

Infographic with a list of the clean fifteen

Infographic with a list of the clean fifteen

So, with all that said, what do these lists mean for grocery shopping? First, they serve as a valuable tool for prioritizing your organic purchases. When it comes to the Dirty Dozen, choosing organic produce is going to help you reduce your exposure to potentially harmful pesticides, especially for those fruits and vegetables with thin skins or porous surfaces. On the other hand, the Clean Fifteen reassurances you that certain produce items are less likely to contain pesticides, so these items can be a more budget-friendly choice that can stretch your dollars.

Beyond health considerations, I really encourage supporting organic farming practices just because they have a broader impact on environmental sustainability. Choosing organic whenever we can is going to reduce overall demand for synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, and so that promotes healthier ecosystems and of course mitigates the impact of agricultural runoff on soil and water quality. It's really incredible how we can be activists in our everyday lives through our consumer choices.

Another way we can protect ourselves from pesticides is choosing locally grown and seasonal produce. Supporting local farmers and purchasing fruits and vegetables in season finds you fresher, more flavorful produce that hasn't traveled thousands of miles or been subjected to prolonged storage. Plus, buying local reduces your carbon footprint and strengthens community connections, fostering a more sustainable food system overall.

Make Choices that Protect Your Body and Earth

It's no secret, modern agriculture and food production is complex, so it's important to do what we can to protect ourselves with knowledge and make informed choices that align with our values and priorities. Whether it's opting for organic strawberries or enjoying a pesticide-free avocado, every decision we make has the power to shape not only our own health but also the health of our planet. So, next time you're at the grocery store or farmers' market, take a moment to come back to this list and make choices that nourish both your body and earth.


bottom of page