Which Fruits & Vegetables Have The Most & Least Pesticides

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I’ve written about this before — which foods you should buy “organic” (because of all the pesticides) and which are okay to buy “regular” (because they aren’t as likely to be loaded with pesticides).

But now I found the official study behind those reports, and I’ve been hearing a lot about this in the news lately.

I thought some of you might be interested in seeing this too:

Which Fruits & Vegetables Have The Most — And Least — Pesticides

This information comes from the Environmental Working Group.


  • People can lower their pesticide exposure by almost 90% by avoiding the top 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables and eating the least contaminated instead.
  • Eating the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables will expose a person to about 15 pesticides per day, on average.

Fruits & vegetables most likely to be contaminated with pesticides are: peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, grapes (imported), spinach, lettuce, and potatoes.

  • Eating the 12 least contaminated will expose a person to less than 2 pesticides per day.

The fruits & vegetables least likely to have pesticides on them are: onions, avocado, sweet corn (frozen), pineapples, mango, asparagus, sweet peas (frozen), kiwi, bananas, cabbage, broccoli, and papaya.


What The Numbers Below Mean

The following produce ranking was developed by analysts at the not-for-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG) based on the results of nearly 43,000 tests for pesticides on produce collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration between 2000 and 2004.

More details here.

Rank = from worst to best in terms of pesticide loads
Score = actual pesticide load


Produce Rankings & Scores:

1 (worst) Peaches 100 (highest pesticide load)

2 Apples 89

3 Sweet Bell Peppers 86

4 Celery 85

5 Nectarines 84

6 Strawberries 82

7 Cherries 75

8 Pears 65

9 Grapes (imported) 65

10 Spinach 60

11 Lettuce 59

12 Potatoes 58

13 Carrots 57

14 Green Beans 53

15 Hot Peppers 53

16 Cucumbers 52

17 Raspberries 47

18 Plums 45

19 Grapes (domestic) 43

20 Oranges 42

21 Grapefruit 40

22 Tangerine 38

23 Mushrooms 37

24 Cantaloupe 34

25 Honeydew Melon 31

26 Tomatoes 30

27 Sweet Potatoes 30

28 Watermelon 28

29 Winter Squash 27

30 Cauliflower 27

31 Blueberries 24

32 Papaya 21

33 Broccoli 18

34 Cabbage 17

35 Bananas 16

36 Kiwi 14

37 Sweet peas (frozen) 11

38 Asparagus 11

39 Mango 9

40 Pineapples 7

41 Sweet Corn (frozen) 2

42 Avocado 1

43 (best) Onions 1 (lowest pesticide load)


UPDATE: The EWG updated the above list in 2011.

As a result, the following items now appear at the top of the list as the worst offenders with the highest amount of pesticides on them and, therefore, should be purchased ‘organic’ whenever possible:

1. Apples
2. Celery
3. Strawberries
4. Peaches
5. Spinach

On the opposite end of the list, these are now the cleanest produce with the lowest amount of pesticides on them:

1. Onions
2. Sweet corn
3. Pineapples
4. Avocado
5. Asparagus

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