The Environmental Working Group’s 2018 Shopper’s Guide to Produce

The annual shopper’s guide to produce reports on the “dirty dozen” and “clean fifteen” crops to watch for in grocery stores.

| October/November 2018

  • apples
    Washing produce removes dirt and insects, but not pesticide residue.
    Photo by Adobe Stock/dmitrilo

  • apples

Although many people aim to avoid pesticides in their produce, the line between “safe” and “unsafe” foods is anything but clear. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is striving to help consumers find that line with the 2018 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. Grounded in the belief that most people should be eating better fruits and vegetables, the guide will help you choose the foods that put you at the lowest risk of pesticide contamination.

The EWG tested thousands of produce samples, discovering 230 different pesticides and trace agricultural chemicals, and dramatic differences in the toxin loads of different fruits and vegetables. For instance, more than 98 percent of the sampled strawberries, cherries, and apples tested positive for at least one kind of pesticide, but less than 1 percent of avocados and sweet corn samples were contaminated. Spinach is also surprisingly loaded with pesticides; samples showed it contained almost twice the pesticide residue per weight as other crops.

This year’s publication also addresses the assumption that washing or peeling conventionally grown produce eliminates all traces of pesticide residue. In fact, over 70 percent of the sampled produce remained contaminated after washing or peeling.

While some readers might see these findings as a reason to avoid eating fresh fruits and vegetables altogether, the EWG guide offers a better solution. It defines the “Dirty Dozen” products that are best bought organic, and the “Clean Fifteen” crops that rarely have detectable pesticide residues. Shoppers can use the guide to fill up on produce in the healthiest ways that are realistic for their lifestyles.

The EWG has produced consumer guidelines since 1995, in light of increasing understanding of the dangers pesticides pose to health. A landmark report from the National Academy of Sciences, published in 1993, drew attention to the risks of children being exposed to agricultural pesticides through their diets. While researchers agree that parents shouldn’t prevent children from eating fresh produce, prolonged exposure to these chemicals was found to lead to later health risks. For instance, chlorpyrifos, an insecticide applied to apples, peaches, peppers, and other produce, is a known neurotoxin that can harm developing brains and nervous systems.

Other studies have confirmed these concerns about pesticides. A report from the Harvard School of Public Health identified an association between tainted produce and fertility issues. Women who consumed two or more servings of contaminated produce each day were 25 percent less likely to have a successful pregnancy, and men who ate similar amounts had lower-quality sperm. Studies such as these raise concerns about other health conditions that might be linked to pesticide residue in our foods.

Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

50 Years of Money-Saving Tips!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS for 50 years and counting, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters