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Pesticides-in-Produce List: Sweet Corn vs. Peaches


The Environmental Working Group just released its "Dirty Dozen" list of fruits and vegetables with the most pesticide residue, plus the "Clean 15" list of produce that is lowest in pesticides.

Considering all the luscious summer produce showing up in the supermarket and farmers' markets, we had to know: Are those fresh ears of super-sweet corn on this year's pesticide list? What about the plump, juicy peaches we love? Or the overflowing pints of dusky blueberries?

And the answer: Good news if you love corn, not-so-hot news if you're a peach or blueberry fanatic.

On the Dirty Dozen list of produce highest in pesticide residue, apples and celery are still agriculture's top two most chemical-heavy crops, but summer peaches, unfortunately, are number four and domestic blueberries are number 11.

On the other hand, sweet corn is near the top of the "Clean 15" list for being low in pesticides. Even better, domestic cantaloupe and watermelon are also low in pesticide.

While eating lots of fruits and vegetables is good for your health, you want to reduce your pesticide intake as much as possible by eating the least contaminated produce.

The EWG suggests spending the extra money to buy organic versions, whenever possible, of the fruits and vegetables on the Dirty Dozen list, and then saving money by buying the conventionally grown versions of the Clean 15 produce.

Also this year, the EWG expanded the Dirty Dozen with a Plus category to highlight two crops -- green beans and kale or collard greens -- that did not meet traditional Dirty Dozen criteria, but are still commonly contaminated with organophosphate insecticides, which are toxic to the nervous system.

The EWG guide is based on pesticide residue testing data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration, which tested samples after they were washed or peeled.

Some highlights from this year's Dirty Dozen:

  • Every sample of imported nectarines tested positive for pesticides, followed by apples (98 percent) and imported plums (96 percent).
  • As a category, grapes have more types of pesticides than any other produce, with 64 different pesticides.
  • Some 96 percent of celery samples tested positive for pesticides, followed by potatoes (91 percent).
  • A single bell pepper sample was contaminated with 15 different pesticides, followed by a single sample of celery with 13.
  • Bell peppers had 88 different pesticide residues, followed by cucumbers (81) and lettuce (78).

Here is the 2012 Dirty Dozen list:

1. Apples

2. Celery

3. Sweet bell peppers

4. Peaches

5. Strawberries

6. Imported nectarines

7. Grapes

8. Spinach

9. Lettuce

10. Cucumbers

11. Domestic blueberries

12. Potatoes

And the low-pesticide Clean 15:

1. Onions

2. Sweet corn

3. Pineapples

4. Avocado

5. Cabbage

6. Sweet peas

7. Asparagus

8. Mangoes

9. Eggplant

10. Kiwi

11. Domestic cantaloupe

12. Sweet potatoes

13. Grapefruit

14. Watermelon

15. Mushrooms

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Photo credit: Lilli Day/Getty Images

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