The 2023 Dirty Dozen & The Clean Fifteen

Each year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) puts out a ranking list of the “best and worst” fruits and vegetables by pesticide exposure. The group released its “2023 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce” with blueberries and green beans joining the “Dirty Dozen” of the 12 non-organic, or conventionally grown, fruits and vegetables with the most pesticides. The guide includes the Clean Fifteen which shows which fruits and vegetables tested have very low or no traces of pesticides.

Nearly 75% of non-organic fresh produce sold in the U.S. contains residues of potentially harmful pesticides. Any exposure to pesticides is a problem, given what we know about several ways they can harm humans. But the findings are particularly concerning for children, who are particularly vulnerable to many of the health harms associated with pesticide exposure.

The Shopper’s Guide represents EWG’s analysis of the latest fruit and vegetable testing data from the Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration. The 2023 guide includes data from 46,569 samples of 46 fruits and vegetables. The USDA peels or scrubs and washes produce samples before testing, whereas the FDA only removes dirt before testing its samples. Even after these steps, the tests still find traces 251 different pesticides.

For this year’s guide, the overall picture remains problematic: Too many pesticides are still found in too high quantities on too much of the produce millions of Americans eat every day. Some of the USDA’s tests show traces of pesticides long since banned by the Environmental Protection Agency. Much stricter federal regulation and oversight of these chemicals is needed.

Research from Harvard University shows that consuming fruits and vegetables with high levels of pesticide residues may lessen the benefits of fruit and vegetable consumption, including protection against cardiovascular disease and mortality. A recent EWG investigation published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health found that the EPA has failed to adequately protect children from pesticides. For almost 90 percent of the most common pesticides, the agency has neglected to apply the Food Quality Protection Act–mandated children’s health safety factor to the allowable limits.


Of the 46 items included in our analysis, these 12 fruits and vegetables were most contaminated with pesticides:
Some highlights from the Dirty Dozen testing:

  • More than 90% of samples of strawberries, apples, cherries, spinach, nectarines and grapes tested positive for residues of two or more pesticides.
  • A total of 210 pesticides were found on Dirty Dozen items.
  • Of those, over 50 different pesticides were detected on every type of crop on the list, except cherries.
  • All of the produce on the Dirty Dozen had at least one sample with at least 13 different pesticides — and some had as many as as many as 23.
  • Kale, collard and mustard greens, as well as hot peppers and bell peppers, had the most pesticides detected of any crop — 103 and 101 pesticides in total, respectively.
  • The neurotoxic organophosphate insecticide acephate, prohibited from use on green beans in 2011, was detected on six percent of green bean samples.


These 15 items had the lowest amounts of pesticide residues, according to EWG’s analysis of the most recent USDA data.

Top takeaways for consumers:

• Almost 65% of Clean Fifteen fruit and vegetable samples had no detectable pesticide residues.
• Avocados and sweet corn were the cleanest produce – less than 2% of samples showed any detectable pesticides.
• Just over 10% of Clean Fifteen fruit and vegetable samples had residues of two or more pesticides.
• No sample from the first six Clean Fifteen items tested positive for more than three pesticides.


Washing your produce before eating is important, even if it’s only under the tap for a 10-20 seconds. Toxic pesticide residues, dirt and bacteria often remain so it's important to always wash produce, even if it is prepackaged or organic. 

Try to buy organic where possible, particularly for those listed on the dirty dozen. However, if you can not thorough washing, scrubbing and soaking is an effective way to remove pesticides. 

Here are 6 effective ways to remove pesticides

  1. Salt - Soak in salt water using Himalayan salt or sea salt for 20 minutes. Researchers discovered that 10% salt water solution is effective for removing common pesticide residues including DDT. Rinse with water afterwards.

  2. Bicarbonate of soda - Also known as bicarb and baking soda to clean. Add 1 teaspoon of bicarb to 2 cups of water and soak for 15 minutes. Rise with water afterwards.

  3. Vinegar (any type) - Soak for 20 minutes. You need to use 1-part vinegar to 4-parts water, so 10 ml of vinegar would need to be mixed with 40 ml of water. Porous fruits such as berries may become soggy when soaked for too long.

  4. Scrub - After soaking thoroughly scrub under running water. 

  5. Rinse - After soaking & scrubbing rinse with filtered water to remove any trace pesticides and heavy metals from the tap water. 

  6. Peel - Particularly when you have food allergies and are starting The Hypoallergenic Diet, it is beneficial to peel the skin off fruits and vegetables to reduce pesticide exposure. 

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published