Why I don’t be recommending everything on this year’s “Clean Fifteen” list

Yesterday I shared the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) 2019 “Dirty Dozen”—their annual list of the most pesticide-laden conventional produce. And if that report didn’t convince you that buying organic is worth every extra penny, I don’t know what will.

What I didn’t mention is that there are exceptions to every rule. Including this one. Fifteen of them, to be exact.

I’m referring, of course, to the “Clean Fifteen” list, also issued annually by the EWG. As a companion to the “Dirty Dozen,” this list ranks the produce that’s least likely to be contaminated with pesticide residue. And it’s a must-read for any health-conscious consumer looking to get the most bang out of their buck.   

And the “cleanest” produce is…

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Frozen sweet peas
  5. Onions
  6. Papayas
  7. Eggplants
  8. Asparagus
  9. Kiwis
  10. Cabbages
  11. Cauliflower
  12. Cantaloupe
  13. Broccoli
  14. Mushrooms
  15. Honeydew melons

More than 70 percent of the above produce that researchers tested had no pesticide residues at all. Avocados and sweet corn ranked as the cleanest, with less than one percent of either samples testing positive for any detectable pesticides.

Among those samples on the list that did have residue, a mere six percent turned up two or more types of pesticides. And aside from cabbage, all the other produce tested positive for fewer than four types of pesticides.

“Clean” doesn’t mean healthy

So is it still preferable to buy organic across the board if you have the choice? Ultimately, that’s between you and your bank account. The EWG is simply saying that these are fifteen cases where buying conventional won’t kill you.

But just because they won’t kill you, that doesn’t mean that every item on this list is especially good for you.

Don’t forget, some of these foods—like corn, peas, and tropical fruits like pineapple and papaya—contain significant amounts of sugar and/or starch. So these items are best eaten occasionally, no matter how “clean” they are.


EWG’s 2019 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™. Environmental Workign Group, 3/20/19. (ewg.org/foodnews/summary.php)