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This week, the Environmental Working Group released its annual Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists, which rank the best and worst choices for conventional (non-organic) produce. Apples now sit at the top of the Dirty Dozen, up three spots from last year. Pesticides were found on 98 percent of the apple samples tested.
Other offenders include celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, imported nectarines and grapes, sweet bell peppers, potatoes, blueberries, lettuce, kale and collard greens. Cilantro, which had never been tested before, had 33 unapproved pesticides on 44 pecent of the samples, the highest percentage ever recorded on any item since the program began.
Now for the good news: onions and corn topped the Clean 15, followed by pineapple, avocado, asparagus, sweet peas, mangoes, eggplant, cantaloupe, kiwi, cabbage, watermelon, sweet potatoes, grapefruit and mushrooms.
The list was compiled from data collected by the United States Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration from 2000 to 2009. Most samples are washed and peeled before being tested so the data reflects the likely amount of chemicals in the food when it is eaten.
There's been an increased focus on eating fruits and vegetables due to the USDA's newly revamped food pyramid MyPlate. While the Dirty Dozen list may put you off certain types of produce, the EWG says that if you eat five servings of items a day from the Clean 15 list you can still get the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables and lower your pesticide consumption by 92 percent.
To make grocery shopping easier, the EWG also offers a printable, pocketsized guide of this year's lists. And of course, choosing organic whenever possible also helps.