The Clean 15 - “Cleaner” Produce

Here’s some good news.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) released its latest “Dirty Dozen” of conventionally grown produce most likely to be contaminated with pesticide residues. Apples, celery and sweet peppers topped that list. Those items, EWG recommended, should be bought organic by people who want to be sure of pesticide-free produce.

But it also provided a list of the “Clean 15,” 15 fruits and vegetables, tested over the past 10 years by the US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) and the US Food and Drug Administration, which were least likely to test positive for pesticides. Onions, sweet corn, pineapples, and avocados were at the top of the list again this year (sounds like the start of a recipe!).

One caveat in the top 4: Most feed corn and lots of sweet corn is genetically modified, so unless you can ask your source about the kind of seed they’re using, those avoiding GMOs might want to go organic there, too.

The Clean 15 list hasn’t changed much since last year, with many foods holding their own or simply jockeying for position. One standout is cabbage: It landed in the number 11 slot last year and this year is number 5. It’s unclear what this versatile veg did to move up in the ratings but it’s the reason asparagus dropped a couple prestige points.

“More than 90 percent of cabbage, asparagus, sweet peas, eggplant and sweet potato samples had one or fewer pesticides detected,” EWG reported. “Of the Clean 15 vegetables, no single sample had more than 5 different chemicals, and no single fruit sample from the Clean 15 had more than 5 types of pesticides detected.”

In addition to its usual review of produce, EWG also reported on USDA’s study of baby food. While some baby foods turned up with pesticides, sometimes several kinds of pesticides, sweet potato baby food was the least likely to contain them. It’s not surprising, then, that sweet potatoes are 12th on the Clean 15 list.

Read the guide summary here