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Dirty Dozen, Clean 15 lists released for 2021 

dirty dozen strawberry
The Environmental Working Group’s annual Dirty Dozen list of “most contaminated” fruit and vegetable items, was released in March.

The Environmental Working Group has released its controversial Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists of fresh produce items that consumers should avoid and seek, based on pesticide residue levels.

This year, collard and mustard greens join kale on the dirty list, as well as bell peppers and hot peppers for the first time.

And although no citrus item makes the dozen, EWG notes that more than 90 percent of citrus fruits had toxic pesticides on them when tested.

Avocados again top the Clean 15 list.

The EWG compiles its annual list by analyzing U.S. Department of Agriculture data “to identify which fresh fruits and vegetables are most and least contaminated with pesticide residues.”

“This year, the USDA’s tests found residues of potentially harmful chemical pesticides on nearly 70 percent of the non-organic fresh produce sold in the U.S.,” EWG said in a press release. “Before testing fruits and vegetables, the USDA washes, scrubs and peels them, as consumers would.”

“Whether organic or conventionally grown, fruits and vegetables are critical components of a healthy diet,” said EWG toxicologist Thomas Galligan, Ph.D, in the release. “We urge consumers who are concerned about their pesticide intake to consider, when possible, purchasing organically grown versions of the foods on EWG’s Dirty Dozen, or conventional produce from our Clean Fifteen.”

EWG says “most pesticide residues the USDA finds fall within government-mandated restrictions. But legal limits aren’t always safe.”

“The EPA’s safety levels, called tolerances, help agency regulators determine whether farmers are applying pesticides properly. If tolerance levels were set to protect all children eating produce, as EWG believes they should be, more fruits and vegetables would fail to meet them.”

Here are the 2021 Dirty Dozen: 

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale/Collard/Mustard greens
  4. Nectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Cherries
  8. Peaches
  9. Pears
  10. Bell and hot peppers
  11. Celery
  12. Tomatoes


Here are the items on the Clean 15: 

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

Greg Johnson is the Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services.