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Pesticides on Produce: 10 Most Contaminated Fruits and Vegetables

Updated on June 15, 2013

Produce and Pesticide


Pesticides and Produce

How often have you heard somebody talk about the health benefits associated with eating fruits and vegetables? Your mother probably told you to eat your vegetables, and if you’re a parent, you've likely encouraged your children to eat fruits and vegetables too. Unfortunately, your produce might actually be worse for you than you think, because much like fish, it can be and often is contaminated.

While, the benefits associated with eating fruits and vegetables far outweigh the potential pesticide risk, it’s always good to know what is contaminated. You can always replace the most contaminated fruits and vegetables for organic produce. In addition, there are many ways to reduce the pesticide levels on your produce.

The Environmental Working Group conducts an annual report on pesticide levels in our food supply. The annual test seems a bit redundant at times, because each of the food items on this list typically rank high for pesticides and almost always rank within the top ten most contaminated produce items. Here are the top ten most contaminated produce items, starting with the most contaminated:

Washing Fruits and Vegetables to Remove Pesticides

Top Ten Most Contaminated Produce

Number 1: Apples. For three years in a row, apples have been found to be the dirtiest food. An astonishing 99 percent of apple samples tested positive for pesticides. In addition, apples are often coated with chemicals to extend shelf life. Some speculate that this increases the contamination level. Either way, it seems that an apple a day may not keep the doctor away. Eat organic, or clean those apples!

Number 2: Strawberries. Strawberries almost always rank in the top five for most contaminated produce. This year, strawberries had the dubious distinction of second place.

Number 3: Grapes. Grapes almost always rank within the top ten, but this year they ranked third with a single grape testing positive for 15 different pesticides. That glass of red wine might not be as good for you as you think.

Number 4: Celery. Celery typically makes the top five. This year was no exception; celery ranked fourth in contamination and had a whopping thirteen different pesticides.

Number 5: Peaches. Peaches ranked fifth for contamination.

Number 6: Spinach. Popeye wouldn't be happy to hear that spinach was the sixth most contaminated food. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, spinach is also one of the top produce sources of food borne illness.

Number 7: Bell peppers. Bell peppers tested positive for 15 different pesticides.

Number 8: Nectarines (imported). If you love nectarines, purchase domestically grown or organic.

Number 9: Cucumbers. Cucumbers ranked ninth.

Number 10: Potatoes. According to EWG testing, the average potato had a much higher total weight of pesticides than any other food crop tested.

Produce and Pesticide


15 of the Least Contaminated Produce

While EWG testing confirms high contamination levels of pesticides on produce, others were found to have far fewer pesticides. These produce were found to have the least amount of pesticide residues:

  • Onion
  • Sweet Corn
  • Pineapple
  • Avocado
  • Cabbage
  • Sweet Peas
  • Asparagus
  • Mangoes
  • Eggplant
  • Kiwifruit
  • Cantaloupe (domestically grown)
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Grapefruit
  • Watermelon
  • Mushrooms

Cuisine Clean - Fruit and Vegetable Washer - oZone


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    • Wacky Mummy profile image

      Wacky Mummy 4 years ago from UK

      Great hub, thanks for sharing - top tip, wash fruit and veg in a vinegar solution, I've read that it removes the wax coating that is often found on them to make them last longer :)

    • profile image

      Education Answer 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      You are absolutely welcome. I'm working on a hub that describes inexpensive ways to clean produce to remove a lot of the pesticides.

      Best wishes.

    • cathylynn99 profile image

      cathylynn99 4 years ago from northeastern US

      shared on facebook. thanks for the good info.

    • The Examiner-1 profile image

      The Examiner-1 4 years ago

      I was recently considering purchasing sweet potatoes on my next shopping trip, and I read about potatoes in the top ten - then I read farther down and saw the sweet potatoes were in the '15 least'. I buy my vegetables in the frozen section. The only fruit that I buy is a minimal supply of V-8 juice.