Update: 2019’s Dirty Dozen And Clean Fifteen Produce List - Save Our Bones

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has just released its yearly list of the “dirtiest” and “cleanest” produce on the grocery shelves. Each year, the organization collects samples of conventionally grown fruits and vegetables and tests them for pesticides and other toxic chemical residues.

“The Dirty Dozen” reports the worst offenders– foods found to have the highest levels of residual pesticides which wind up in your grocery cart, on your plate, and in your body.
These chemicals increase your body’s toxic load and weaken your bones, because they acidify your pH, in addition to other negative health effects.

The EWG also lists “The Clean Fifteen.” These fruits and vegetables are the least likely to bear toxins. Today we bring you both lists and will also share the most effective method for washing all your produce at home.

The Dirty Dozen

Below are the 12 foods that the EWG found most likely to contain the greatest variety and volume of pesticides. They’re listed in order, starting with the fruit that had the most toxic residue.

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale
  4. Nectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Peaches
  8. Cherries
  9. Pears
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Celery
  12. Potatoes

You can avoid ingesting the toxins in these foods by purchasing organically grown varieties. The stricter growing requirements mean that farmers of organic produce can’t use most chemical pesticides. That equates to safer food on your plate, and it when it comes to these 12 foods, organic is a must.


The “Dirty Dozen” contain the highest levels of residual pesticides. Never buy them conventionally grown, instead choose organically grown varieties.

The Clean Fifteen

The foods on the “Clean Fifteen” are not devoid of chemicals when conventionally grown, but compared to the nearly 50 types of produce tested, they had the lowest levels of pesticide residue. That makes them the safest options if you must buy conventional.

The one exception is sweet corn, which is genetically modified. You should buy organic corn to avoid the potential health impacts of genetic modification.

The list of the Clean Fifteen starts with the “cleanest” produce and ascends in pesticide levels:

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


The “Clean Fifteen” showed the lowest levels of residual pesticides. If you choose to buy conventionally grown produce or don’t have easy access to organically grown fruits and vegetables, these are your safest choices.

The Dangers Of Pesticides

Pesticides are dangerous by design. They are used to kill pests of many types, often by damaging their nervous system.

Here are some of the health problems caused by heavy exposure to pesticides. They are seen most frequently and severely in people who work in agriculture and experience accidental acute exposure or chronic low dose exposure to these chemicals:1,2,3

  • Nausea
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety
  • Respiratory Issues
  • Depression
  • Skin Conditions
  • Parkinson’s
  • Cancer

In one study of more than a thousand children, those with the highest urine levels of pesticides were 50-90% more likely to have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).4 Other studies have linked childhood pesticide exposure to autism.5 Both cases point to the neurological damage caused by these toxic chemicals.

And, as mentioned earlier, pesticides are toxins that acidify the serum pH, increasing the risk of chronic acidosis, which has been shown to cause bone loss.


Pesticides are toxic, and high exposure levels can have severe health consequences, including cancer, Parkinson's, and depression. They also damage bone because they acidify the serum pH.

Reduce Toxic Residue With Proper Washing

Regardless of whether or not you’re consuming conventionally grown produce, you should thoroughly wash it. Even organically grown fruits and vegetables can carry residue of the organic bio-pesticides. Additionally, in transit and storage, synthetic pesticides are sometimes transferred to organic produce.

Washing also helps to prevent foodborne illness caused by bacteria and other microbes.

Giving your fruits and vegetables a thorough rinse in cold water is an effective way of removing many types of pesticides. For berries, it’s the best option. But for veggies and smooth-skinned fruits like apples or cherries, there is an even more effective way:

  • Fill a large bowl with water
  • Add one teaspoon of baking soda
  • Submerge the produce
  • Leave in for a minute or two
  • For leafy greens: rinse and dry in a spinner or pat dry
  • For other vegetables: scrub with a brush before rinsing

Mushrooms are too delicate for this method, so they should either be gently wiped with a damp towel or scrubbed with a mushroom brush before a quick rinse and blot dry.

Washing your produce thoroughly is essential for maintaining your health, and that includes avoiding residual chemicals that contribute to bone-harming acidification.


Always wash your produce thoroughly to reduce residual toxins and harmful bacteria. A minute-long bath of baking soda diluted in water is even more effective at removing chemicals.

Shop The Bone-Healthy Way

The Save Institute recommends avoiding conventional fruits and vegetables altogether, even those on the “Clean Fifteen” list, as they still may have residual pesticides.

If possible, you should buy all organic, and thoroughly wash your produce to get the maximum protection from pesticides. This will allow your liver and kidneys to function optimally, protecting your health and your bones.

But remember that an 80/20 pH-balanced diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables is a priority for the health of your bones. So if you can only get conventionally grown produce, make sure you give them a good wash.

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1 Center For Ecogenetics & Environmental Health. University of Washington School Of Public Health. Web. https://depts.washington.edu/ceeh/downloads/FF_Pesticides.pdf

2 Amanpreet S. Dhillon, et al. “Pesticide/Environmental Exposures and Parkinson's Disease in East Texas, Journal of Agromedicine” 2008. 13:1, 37-48. Web. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10599240801986215

3 Bruce N. Ames, et al. Dietary pesticides (99.99% all natural)* Proc. Nad. Acad. Sci. USA Vol. 87, pp. 7777-7781, October 1990. Medical Sciences. Web. https://www.pnas.org/content/pnas/87/19/7777.full.pdf

4 Bouchard MF, et al. “Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and urinary metabolites of organophosphate pesticides.” Pediatrics. 2010 Jun;125(6):e1270-7. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20478945/

5 Kalkbrenner AE, et al. “Environmental chemical exposures and autism spectrum disorders: a review of the epidemiological evidence.” Curr Probl Pediatr Adolesc Health Care. 2014 Nov;44(10):277-318. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25199954

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Comments on this article are closed.

  1. June

    I have always (say thirty years or longer ) bought organic carrots but I don’t see carrots on the list

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Carrots are not on the list, but keep up with buying as much organic produce as you can!

  2. Jollean

    Just want to mention that non- organic Hawaiian papaya are gmo.

  3. cesarina coelho

    ?I love your comments, and always following. thank you for your information
    it’s so helpfully.
    I have a question should we wash the vegetables in salt water. then rinse out?

    I got this from Dr. Gerber.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Washing vegetables and fruits in salt water (and then rinsing) can help to remove pesticides, Cesarina.

  4. Ghassan Numan Mahir

    Hi Vivian
    For someone like me whose breakfast (4-5 times a week) is freshly made juice (fruit and veg), in addition to the good use of vegetables in all meals, this is an extremely important and beneficial list…
    Thanks for your continued enlightenment!

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Great! I’m glad this is something you can put to use immediately.

  5. Bernie Hagl

    Sounds good I am all for it.


  6. Ita

    Thank you, Ita.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      You’re welcome, Ita 🙂

  7. Paulette

    What is the 15th of the clean 15?

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Hi Paulette, Eggplant was missing from the Clean Fifteen list earlier. Sorry for the mix-up.

  8. Beverly

    I wash my fruit and veggies with FIT to clean it up. Is that sufficient so I can et them off the list of the dirty 12?

  9. Carol

    I have worked the lists into a convenient chart to keep in my wallet to reference when I shop. I just now noticed that the Clean Fifteen has only 14 items. What is #15?

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Hey Carol – thanks for bringing this to our attention. The complete Clean Fifteen list is now up on the article. Thanks again!

  10. Lottie Kittner

    Where are raspberries and blueberries on either list?

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Lottie, blueberries were listed as #3 in the EWG’s Dirty Dozen list of 2012, but not recently. Back then, domestic blueberries tested positive for 42 different pesticide residues, and 73 percent of the blueberries contained two or more pesticides.

  11. Carla

    Would this list also include levels of the herbicide glyphosate which is systemic? I use hydrogen peroxide to scrub my veggies and fruits and then rinse well. I live in a small town where the organic fresh produce section is teeny tiny.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      The EWG’s report does not specify which pesticides were checked, but rather their concentration and variety. And keep up with the produce washing so long as you can’t get organically grown fruits and veggies!

  12. Sue

    We eat non-organic bagged spinach regularly that says “thoroughly washed”. Is this safe enough?

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Sue, in the above Dirty Dozen list, spinach is listed as the second most pesticide-ridden food. For that reason, at the Save Institute we strongly suggest you get it organically grown.

  13. joy Markman

    Hi Vivian, as usual thanks for all your information & hard work. What I do, with all my vegs & fruits is soak them in Apple cider vinegar & brush them – I dont even rinse them off , as there is nothing wrong with ingesting a little cider vinegar.

    • marge201

      Not rinsing produce is like taking a shower and not rinsing the soap, no? Okay, here the soap is edible and extremely healthy (ACV) but no rinse means you’re eating produce soaked in the very stuff you’re trying to remove.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      There’s nothing wrong with ingesting apple cider vinegar, Joy. It is highly alkalizing, helps with digestion, and much more.

  14. Joan

    Just to say Vivian remember seeing this before @ you had peppers as one of the items have pesticides on them.
    I’ve have being bying organic peppers since but don’t see them I this list just wondering
    Thank you

  15. Bobbi

    What is your opinion on using white, distilled vinegar in the rinse water?
    Thank you

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Bobbi, white distilled vinegar is an excellent produce sanitizer, but it does not reduce pesticide levels.

  16. MaryAnn Sivolella

    Excellent comments today and all of us should take heed from Vivian Goldschmidt, MA on her email site:
    saveourbones.com. Her research keeps us “healthy n strong”. Trust me, I’m in my 70’s.
    Thank you,

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Thanks for your kind words, MaryAnn!

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