What You Need To Know About The New "Dirty Dozen" List

Photographed by Ruby Yeh.
Every year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) puts together a list of the 12 fruits and veggies it believes have the most residue from pesticides. And this year, strawberries top the list for the first time.

To create the "Dirty Dozen" list, the EWG analyzes government data about pesticides. Specifically, it's now using USDA data from 2014, the most recent year available. For instance, the USDA tested 176 groups of strawberries, 85% of which were grown in the U.S. When combined with data from previous years, EWG found that strawberries beat out apples for the most pesticide residue for the first time. Apples came in second this year, followed by nectarines, peaches, and celery.

But the annual list also garners its fair share of criticism, mainly for potentially scaring people away from healthy foods — especially because the USDA's report reminds us that pesticides "do not pose risk to consumers’ health." And, as a 2011 study in the Journal of Toxicology suggests, the Dirty Dozen may not be as helpful a ranking as we're led to believe, partly because the methodology isn't based on rock-solid science.

So whatever your feelings may be, please don't use this as an excuse to avoid fruits and veggies. Whether you're going for organic or conventional produce, your body will thank you for choosing either — and washing it thoroughly before eating.
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