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The Dirty Dozen: What To Buy Organic

You want to avoid pesticides but you're on a budget. The "Dirty Dozen" to the rescue!


Photo: Alessio Maffeis (flickr)

Apples top the list of produce that should be purchased organically, with 98 percent of conventional apples tested by the EWG showing pesticides.

If you’re looking to avoid pesticides, organic produce is the way to go. However the cost of organic can deter consumers. What can a shopper do?

‘Dirty Dozen’

The Environmental Working Group comes to the rescue with the “Dirty Dozen:” the top twelve foods that should be purchased organically.

Every year the EWG updates their list of most offending items, in terms of pesticide residue. Top offenders include apples, celery and strawberries.

What Is Considered Safe?

If those are the top foods to buy organic, what can be generally considered safe if purchased conventionally?

EWG also compiles the “Clean 15:” 15 conventionally grown items that are least likely to have pesticide issues.

Onions, sweet corn and pineapples topped the Clean 15 list, with less than one percent of onion samples tested showing any pesticide residue.

Buy Local!

Where you get your produce can also make a difference — shopping locally and from farmer’s markets likely means organic. Kim Barnouin, co-author of the Skinny Bitch book series, says that local farmers often don’t spray their produce.

Most smaller markets can’t afford an official designation as organic, but if concerned, simply ask the farmer.

Her suggestion? Buy local produce when in season, and if out of season, buy the “Dirty Dozen” organic.

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Liz Leslie

Liz Leslie is a journalist based in Chicago. When she's not writing about food, she's likely eating food. Or dreaming about food.

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  • Farmanac

    Great overview on the Environmental Working Group’s pesticide list. We’ve developed an iPhone app called Farmanac ( which uses pesticide data from EWG and let’s you lookup any fruit or vegetable by name or PLU code. Additionally you’ll also get information on when the produce is in season, how to pick it and how to store.

  • Amy Pearson

    Do you want to “Be GMO Free”? Take the GMO
    Survey at to voice your opinion and learn more about
    genetically engineered food.

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