2021 Dirty Dozen List

As the world’s population becomes more aware of pesticides, sales and usage have declined. In addition, the increased public awareness may have led to pesticide-free produce being purchased in place of pesticide-ridden options for birthdays or special occasions.


The Environmental Working Group issued their 2021 Dirty Dozen list, a “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce,” It serves as a stark reminder that the food chain still has to be cleaned up. According to the survey, over 70% of non-organic samples tested positive for at least one pesticide this year. And consider this: Pesticides were found in up to 20 different pesticides in a single sample of kale, collard, and mustard greens.

Even though oranges did not make the Dirty Dozen list, EWG expressed concerns about non-organic fruit in its most recent study. According to the group, Imazalil, a fungicide that may interfere with hormone levels, was identified in almost 90% of citrus samples studied in 2020. This fungicide has been labeled as a “likely human carcinogen” by the Environmental Protection Agency.

In its own 2019 testing of tangerines, the USDA discovered that more than 95% of them tested positive for Imazalil.

This article on citrus emphasizes the need to be concerned about the number of pesticides on and in our food and the strength and risk level of the chemicals.

Fortunately, EWG’s analysis includes a “Clean 15” list of non-organic food that is least likely to be tainted with pesticide levels. Of course, I recommend going organic as much as possible. Still, if you’re on a budget or have a limited variety, these lists might help you concentrate on avoiding the most contaminated fruits and vegetables. Because one thing is certain: most of us need more fruits and vegetables in our diets.

The Report’s Key Findings for 2021

  • Pesticide residue data from the USDA was evaluated by the Environmental Working Group, which discovered that over 70% of non-organic vegetable samples tested positive for pesticide contamination.
  • Pesticide residues are not completely removed by washing and peeling food. Therefore, pesticide residue testing on fruits and vegetables eaten in their natural state was used to compile the data for this study. Alexis Temkin, Ph.D., co-author of the paper, notes, “This implies it’s been washed and, where relevant, peeled.” “Bananas, for example, are peeled, and blueberries and peaches are washed before being tested.”
  • Pesticide residues were found in more than 90% of strawberry, apple, cherry, spinach, nectarines, and leafy greens samples.
  • Pesticide residue was found in spinach samples at 1.8 times the rate of any other crop evaluated.
  • Pesticide residues of neonicotinoids, which are known to damage pollinators, were found in/on almost one-fifth of the fruits and vegetables consumed by people and may affect the developing fetus and children.
  • More than half of the potatoes, spinach, and lettuce samples examined in the United States had residues of at least one of three neonicotinoid pesticides prohibited in the European Union — imidacloprid, clothianidin, and thiamethoxam.
  • Neonicotinoid contamination was also discovered in more than a quarter of the samples of cherries, melons, and strawberries from the United States.

The Dirty Dozen and Clean Lists for 2021

The Dirty Dozen of the Environmental Working Group

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Mustard Greens/Kale/Collard Greens
  4. Nectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Cherries
  8. Peaches
  9. Pears
  10. Peppers, both bell and hot
  11. Celery
  12. Tomatoes

The Clean is a list of products that the Environmental Working Group has evaluated.

Produce on the Clean 15 list is the least likely to be polluted by pesticides.

The Clean 15 List for 2021 is as follows:

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet Corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Onions
  5. Papayas
  6. Sweet Peas, Frozen
  7. Eggplant
  8. Asparagus
  9. Broccoli
  10. Cabbage
  11. Kiwi
  12. Cauliflower
  13. Mushrooms
  14. Melon Honeydew
  15. Cantaloupe

Please note that certain sweet corn, papaya, and summer squash marketed in the United States contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs); therefore, pick organic to prevent GMOs.

Citrus’s Unfavorable Side

The Environmental Working Group also conducted independent pesticide testing on citrus fruits and discovered Imazalil, a fungicide associated with cancer and hormone disruption, in over 90% of the samples. It’s worth noting that the chemical was identified on peeled oranges at levels almost 20 times higher than the EWG’s suggested limit for protecting children’s health.

Keep an eye out for raisins that have been tampered with

EWG focuses on test findings from USDA’s fresh vegetable testing in general. However, EWG will include dried fruit in its rankings in 2020.

And what the group discovered is shocking, which is all the more reason to buy organic raisins while you’re out shopping. Strawberries, nectarines, apples, and cherries all scored lower than raisins. According to the 2020 edition of the study, 99 percent of raisins carried at least two pesticides.

“This year, the USDA added testing data for raisins and discovered that 99 percent of conventional raisins had two or more pesticide residues, with a single sample containing an average of 13 distinct pesticides,” Temkin told DrAxe.com. “Raisins would have surpassed strawberries as the food with the greatest pesticide residues if they had been included in our fresh produce rankings.”

Pesticides were discovered on organic raisins, leading researchers to conclude that prunes contain fewer pesticide levels than conventional and organic raisins.

Last Thoughts

  • The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has issued its annual Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists, highlighting the most likely fruits and vegetables to contain pesticide residues and those least likely to contain pesticide residues.
  • Strawberries are at the top of the contamination list this year, but spinach and pears were also singled out for excessive chemical levels.
  • In independent testing, approximately 90% of non-organic citrus samples had evidence of pesticides.
  • Sign EWG’s petition to get this chemical, which is classified as “possibly a human carcinogen,” outlawed.
  • Raisins, dried fruit, have higher levels of contamination than strawberries. However, even organic raisins were polluted, albeit not as significantly as non-organic counterparts in general.
  • This list should not scare you away from fruits and vegetables, but it should make you suspicious of current chemical cultivation. Chemicals are used to fumigate the soil and kill weeds, bacteria, and pests, but they have certain unintended consequences, such as destroying soil health and beneficial microorganisms.
  • Pesticides have been connected to a slew of health disorders, including some malignancies, ADHD symptoms, autism, Parkinson’s disease, and a slew of others.
  • Fortunately, there is a correlation between converting to organic foods and decreased pesticide levels in the body.
  • However, since access to organic foods is a matter of fairness, government action is required to enhance access to healthy foods and prohibit hazardous chemicals in agriculture.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the top three most pesticide-contaminated foods?

A: The top three most pesticide-contaminated foods are strawberries, nectarines, and asparagus.

What are the most heavily sprayed crops?

A: The most heavily sprayed crops are corn and cotton.

What are the five most pesticide-ridden fruits?

A: Kiwi, papaya, honeydew melon, cantaloupe and watermelon.

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