Volume 10, Issue 4

July 2018

The 2018 Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen

This is a wonderful time of year for enjoying fresh vegetables and fruits! Many people are not aware that pesticide residues are common on conventionally grown produce, even after it is carefully washed or peeled. I really don't want to spoil your enjoyment, but I thought it would be helpful to let you know about the fruits and vegetables on this year's 'Dirty Dozen' list which is produced by the U.S. Environmental Working Group. On a more positive note, the 'Clean Fifteen' list shows produce with the least exposure to pesticides.

I'm not suggesting that you necessarily stop eating produce on the Dirty Dozen list, but you definitely want to consider buying organic versions of these fruits and vegetables or buying them from farms whose practices regarding pesticide use you are familiar with. You might also wish to eat more of the Clean Fifteen.

While I realize the situation in Canada may not be identical to the U.S., usually we're quite similar, so I think we can use this information to guide us in our choices. Read on below...

These newsletters will help you make better choices for better health. The choices that you make today can either have a positive or negative impact on your overall health. Begin by choosing better as it is a step towards longevity.

Ramila Padiachy

Doctor of Natural Medicine (DNM)®


The 2018 Dirty Dozen

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit and nonpartisan group, has been ranking fresh produce based on their levels of pesticide contamination (number of pesticides and amount of each pesticide) since 2004. They produce the Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce™, which is intended to be a resource for consumers who are unable to buy organic produce. The EWG does its own independent analysis of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's pesticide testing.

The 2018 Dirty Dozen (in descending order of levels of pesticides):

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Nectarines
  4. Apples
  5. Grapes
  6. Peaches
  7. Cherries
  8. Pears
  9. Tomatoes
  10. Celery
  11. Potatoes
  12. Sweet bell peppers
  13. Hot peppers

Made that a baker's dozen - this year's list includes a 13th item, hot peppers. The EWG found that hot peppers tend to be contaminated with dangerous insecticides, so they suggest buying organic hot peppers, or at least cook conventionally grown hot peppers to help reduce insecticide levels.

The EWG says that rinsing produce under running tap water is a good way to reduce pesticide levels before consumption; however, research at the University of Massachusetts shows that soaking produce in a baking soda and water solution may do an even better job.

Key findings of the 2018 Dirty Dozen report:

  • The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) tests found 230 different pesticides and pesticide breakdown products on thousands of produce samples analyzed.
  • The EWG analyzed USDA pesticide residue data and found that almost 70% of non-organic produce sampled tested positive for pesticide contamination.
  • More than 98% of samples of strawberries, spinach, peaches, nectarines, cherries and apples tested positive for residue of at least one pesticide.
  • Spinach samples had, on average, 1.8 times as much pesticide residue by weight than any other crop.

How risky is eating produce with higher levels of pesticides?

There is no easy answer to this question. There have been studies linking poorer pregnancy outcomes, as well as infertility in both men and women to pesticide exposure. There is also evidence that children with higher exposure to specific types of pesticides are at higher risk of being diagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).  

It's important to note that 'organic' does not mean that no pesticides were used, but that the pesticides used were derived from natural substances, not synthetic ones. While natural substances sound healthier, it depends on how much of a substance you're ingesting. As the saying goes, "The poison isn't in the substance, but in the dose."

Several experts claim that the real risk is in not eating enough produce, rather than pesticide exposure. The Environmental Working Group agrees, saying, "The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure. Eating conventionally grown produce is far better than skipping fruits and vegetables."


The 2018 Clean Fifteen

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn*
  3. Pineapples
  4. Cabbage
  5. Onions
  6. Frozen sweet peas
  7. Papayas*
  8. Asparagus
  9. Mangoes
  10. Eggplant
  11. Honeydew melon
  12. Kiwi
  13. Cantaloupe
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Broccoli

The Clean Fifteen list includes produce that is least likely to be contaminated by pesticides.

  • Less than 1% of avocado and sweet corn samples tested positive for any detectable pesticides; they were the cleanest of all produce tested.
  • More than 80% of pineapples, papayas asparagus, onions and cabbages had no pesticide residues.
  • None of the produce on the Clean Fifteen list tested positive for more than four pesticides.

*Note: Papayas and sweet corn in the U.S. (and sweet corn grown in Canada) is GMO unless organic, so it's best to choose organic for those.

A diet rich in produce is most important

I agree that it's most important to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables for optimum health and that exposure to pesticides, for most people, is a secondary concern. If you have access to organic produce, so much the better, but many nutritionists and other experts agree that eating enough produce is extremely important.



  1. 2018 dirty dozen and clean fifteen lists rank produce items by pesticide level. Food Safety Magazine, April 10, 2018, Accessed May 31, 2018.
  2. Lunder S. EWG's shopper's guide to pesticides in produce™. April 10, 2018, Accessed May 31, 2018. 
  3. Axe J. Dirty dozen list: are you eating the most pesticide-laden produce? Accessed May 31, 2018.
  4. Cassetty S. What a nutritionist wants you to know about pesticides and produce. April 14, 2018, Accessed July 3, 2018.

Disclaimer: The suggestions and recommendations in this newsletter are not intended to be prescriptive or diagnostic. The information is accurate and up to date to our knowledge, but we are not responsible for any errors in our sources of information.


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Our family is so grateful for curing us from many environmental and food sensitivities we were living with since birth. It is our new-found freedom not to have food restrictions, especially at social gatherings. We also appreciate Ramilas determination to finding relief to my son's ongoing eczema breakouts. It made a huge difference to this 15 year old boy's self-esteem.

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