WORST to BEST: Pesticide Residues in Our Food


Everyone is trying to save money these days. And while I always recommend buying organic foods, some of my clients have found that due to costs, they can’t always buy everything organic. So if you are making choices based on costs, it might be helpful to know with which foods you can be more lenient and which to be more careful to purchase only organic.

I have previously published the “Dirty Dozen” list of the produce to avoid because of high pesticide residues. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) now has a list available ranking 47 foods from Worst to Best, with the pesticide load of each food included. You’ll find this full and current list at the end of this article.

Why is this list so important?

An EWG simulation of thousands of consumers eating high and low pesticide diets shows that people can lower their pesticide exposure by almost 80 percent by avoiding the top twelve 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 10 pesticides per day, on average. Eating the 15 least contaminated will expose a person to less than 2 pesticides per day.

My own personal policy is that if it comes into my home, it’s organic. If I am eating away from home, I don’t worry about it because I do eat most of my meals at home.

Why buy organic?

The reasons are two-fold. Year after year, new research is published demonstrating the higher levels of vitamin C and other micronutrients in produce grown organically. In just the past 2 years, there have been at least 15 studies proving these higher nutrient levels.

In addition, there are numerous studies documenting the types, levels and toxicity of pesticides in non-organically grown produce. Both U.S. and governmental agencies have acknowledged the toxic effects on the nervous, endocrine and hormone systems of these toxic chemicals.

The majority of the U.S. population has detectable concentrations of multiple pesticides in their bodies, as documented by bio-monitoring studies by scientists at the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

Children are especially at risk. Exposure to toxic chemicals during critical periods of development of their nervous system, brain, reproductive and endocrine systems can have lasting effects even later in life.

Results of the U.S.D.A. 2008 study of pesticides

In 2008, The U.S.D.A tested 700 samples of washed peaches. They found 51 detectable pesticide residues on them. Five pesticides detected at higher levels than is even allowed by the FDA. And six pesticides that are not even approved for peaches in the United States.

How can you buy more organic food while watching your pocketbook?

  • The easiest solution is to buy from farmers’ markets.
  • Or, grow some of your own. Even in a small space you can at least have a few potted plants.
  • Commit to eating more food at home saving a tremendous amount of money that many families spend buying take-out food and eating in restaurants. That extra cash will more than cover the increased cost of buying organic.
  • The more people buy organic, the more these prices will come down by encouraging more and more farmers to “go organic”.


Here is the full ranking from the worst, with the highest pesticide load, to the best, with the least pesticide load. Be sure to carry this list with you when you are food shopping.

  1. Peach (100)
  2. Apple (93)
  3. Sweet Bell Pepper (83)
  4. Celery (82)
  5. Nectarine (81)
  6. Strawberries (80)
  7. Cherries (73)
  8. Kale (69)
  9. Lettuce (67)
  10. Grapes – Imported (66)
  11. Carrot (63)
  12. Pear (63)
  13. Collard Greens (60)
  14. Spinach (58)
  15. Potato (56)
  16. Green Beans (53)
  17. Summer Squash (53)
  18. Pepper (51)
  19. Cucumber (50)
  20. Raspberries (46)
  21. Grapes – Domestic (44)
  22. Plum (44)
  23. Orange (44)
  24. Cauliflower (39)
  25. Tangerine (37)
  26. Mushrooms (36)
  27. Banana (34)
  28. Winter Squash (34)
  29. Cantaloupe (33)
  30. Cranberries (33)
  31. Honeydew Melon (30)
  32. Grapefruit (29)
  33. Sweet Potato (29)
  34. Tomato (29)
  35. Broccoli (28)
  36. Watermelon (26)
  37. Papaya (20)
  38. Eggplant (20)
  39. Cabbage (17)
  40. Kiwi (13)
  41. Sweet Peas – Frozen (10)
  42. Asparagus (10)
  43. Mango (9)
  44. Pineapple (7)
  45. Sweet Corn – Frozen (2)
  46. Avocado (1)
  47. Onion (1)

For more information,