(Updated March 2023) This post contains the new 2023 Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists with images that you can save to your phone or device to have handy while shopping. Take a screenshot (or tap and hold) to save it to your phone or right-click to download.
People often ask me if I always buy everything organic, but I’ll be the first to tell you that health coaches definitely aren’t always perfect!
While I try my best to eat mostly organic and use organic foods when I develop recipes, it’s just about impossible to only eat foods labeled organic.
Plus, when it comes to fruits & vegetables, buying organic isn’t always necessary.
What really matters is how the food was grown. Some smaller farms use all organic practices but haven’t gone through the full organic certification process yet because it can be expensive for a small business. Get to know your local farms and stands at the farmers’ market and ask about the farm’s practices.
If I’m shopping and meet a farmer who grows an item on the Dirty Dozen but uses all organic farming practices and isn’t big enough to go through the organic certification yet, then I usually still buy from them. Small businesses are the lifeblood of most economies! Support them when you can.
When shopping at traditional grocery stores, I use the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists to choose what produce I’ll buy organic.
You may have heard of the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15, but you might not know that the lists are updated each year.
Check out the full lists below, and save the handy images I made you to your phone for easy shopping. The list is typically updated once each year. The last update was in 2023.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment. They research what’s in our tap water, the safety of our cosmetics, genetically modified organisms (GMO / GE), and the amounts of pesticides in and on our food, among other things.
The EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™ (aka Dirty Dozen and Clean 15) is updated each year and ranks pesticide contamination on 47 popular fruits and vegetables. The guide is based on results of more than 35,200 samples tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration.
The top 15 foods with the least pesticides are called the Clean 15, while the 12 foods with the most pesticides are called the Dirty Dozen. These lists are fantastic to take with you on your shopping trips to know when to buy organic and when it’s ok to buy conventional.
And lucky for us, avocados are at the top of the Clean 15 List!
Here are the most up-to-date Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists:
The Dirty Dozen (2023)
Buy these organic whenever possible – Updated March 2023:
- Kale, collard and mustard greens
- Bell and hot peppers
- Green beans
The Clean 15 (2023)
These are ok to buy conventional (not organic) – Updated March 2023:
- Sweet corn
- Sweet peas
- Honeydew melons
- Sweet potatoes
* Per the EWG, a small amount of sweet corn, papaya, and summer squash sold in the United States is produced from genetically modified seeds. Buy organic varieties of these crops if you want to avoid genetically modified produce.
Full List of Pesticides in Produce
Below is the full list of the 46 fruits and veggies that were tested. The first 12 are the “Dirty Dozen”. The final 15 are the “Clean 15.” Numbers 13-31 fall in the middle, not making it on either list.
- Kale, collard & mustard greens
- Bell & hot Peppers
- Green Beans
- Winter squash
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Summer squash*
- Snap Peas
- Sweet Potatoes
- Honeydew melon
- Sweet peas (frozen)
- Sweet corn*
For me, the closer the produce is to the Clean 15, the more I feel good about buying conventional.
I also look at the price, and if the organic version doesn’t cost a lot more then I’ll buy it organic. Bananas are a good example—while they didn’t make the Clean 15, they are close. Usually organic bananas are about twenty cents more per pound at my grocery store, so I still buy the organic bananas. But mangoes and watermelons can get expensive, and they’re so close to the Clean 15 that I feel good about the conventional ones.
2023 Dirty Dozen Key Findings Summary
- Via the Environmental Working Group, more than 90 percent of samples of strawberries, apples, cherries, spinach, nectarines, and grapes tested positive for residues of two or more pesticides.
- A total of 210 pesticides were found on Dirty Dozen items.
- Of those, over 50 different pesticides were detected on every type of crop on the list, except cherries.
- All of the produce on the Dirty Dozen had at least one sample with at least 13 different pesticides — and some had as many as 23.
- Kale, collard, and mustard greens, as well as hot peppers and bell peppers, had the most pesticides detected of any crop — 103 and 101 pesticides in total, respectively.
- The neurotoxic organophosphate insecticide acephate, prohibited from use on green beans in 2011, was detected on 6% of green bean samples.
2023 Clean 15 Key Findings Summary
- Almost 65% of Clean Fifteen fruit and vegetable samples had no detectable pesticide residues.
- Avocados and sweet corn were the cleanest produce – less than 2% of samples showed any detectable pesticides.
- Just over 10% of Clean Fifteen fruit and vegetable samples had residues of two or more pesticides.
- No sample from the first six Clean Fifteen items tested positive for more than three pesticides.
If you read the full EWG report of all the foods you’ll notice that a few common foods like bananas and carrots fall somewhere in the middle.
Always just do the best you can when it comes to the quality of your food; I’m a firm believer that fresh produce is always better than no produce!
Keep in mind, washing produce doesn’t necessarily get rid of all pesticides and chemicals as it grows into the entire plant, but it can reduce your risk and exposure so be sure to always wash everything thoroughly. High costs are also a reason that I love frozen fruits and veggies–they end to be a better price and keep for months in the freezer. I almost always have frozen organic blueberries from Costco in my freezer for smoothies and other treats.
I suggest keeping these lists on your phone or printing them off to take to the store with you. I have the images above saved to the favorites folder on my iPhone for easy access while I’m at the store.