The Dirty Dozen: The Must-Have Organic Fruits and Vegetables

Written by Max Goldberg on December 28, 2009. Follow Max on Twitter: @livingmaxwell.

Peach stock photoEach year the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting public health and the environment, puts out a list called the “Dirty Dozen”.

What is this list?  It is a list of the most chemically-treated fruits and vegetables.

EWG research “has found that the people who eat the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables consume an average of 10 pesticides a day.  Those who eat the 15 least contaminated conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables ingest fewer than 2 pesticides daily.”

In case you are shopping and can’t remember what is on the list, the basic rule of thumb is this: buy organic fruits or vegetables that have nothing to be peeled off before eating.

If you know someone who has kids, please forward this to them.  Kids are the most vulnerable to pesticide intake.

This year’s Dirty Dozen.

1. Peach
2. Apple
3. Bell Pepper
4. Celery
5. Nectarine
6. Strawberries
7. Cherries
8. Kale
9. Lettuce
10. Grapes (Imported)
11. Carrot
12. Pear

And now for the list that all fruits and vegetables aspire to be on.  Let the bragging begin.

The Clean 15 (lowest in pesticides)

1. Onion
2. Avocado
3. Sweet Corn
4. Pineapple
5. Mango
6. Asparagus
7. Sweet Peas
8. Kiwi
9. Cabbage
10. Eggplant
11. Papaya
12. Watermelon
13. Broccoli
14. Tomato
15. Sweet Potato

Signature: Have a great day!


  1. Wow, this is fascinating info! Thanks for posting this.

    Written by Fred on January 5, 2010 @ 9:44 pm
  2. Thanks. This is extremely helpful information.

    Written by Peter on January 13, 2010 @ 4:09 pm
  3. Hi Peter and Fred,

    I’m glad you found it helpful. Thanks for your feedback.

    Live well,

    Written by livingmaxwell on January 14, 2010 @ 4:10 pm
  4. Very helpful. Thank you. I just wish you had the phone numbers of the gmo products on this written list. I so want to call.

    Written by Rhonda on August 15, 2010 @ 7:47 am
  5. Hi Rhonda,

    I understand completely!!!!

    Thanks so much for your feedback. I sincerely appreciate your interest.

    Live well,

    Written by livingmaxwell on August 15, 2010 @ 4:34 pm
  6. […] The Dirty Dozen – 12 Different Fish to Avoid […]

  7. […] strawberries are on the Dirty Dozen list of foods that should always be eaten organically. There is no skin or peel as a first layer of […]

  8. Wow! I have a 5 year old and a 1 year old… This was truly shocking! Both of my boys love fruits and veggies (yes, I’m a very lucky parent) and now that I’ve read these, I’ll be sure to keep my eyes open. Thank you so much!

    (peace love harmony)

    Written by Ashley on January 13, 2011 @ 7:57 pm
  9. Hi Ashley,

    People don’t fully appreciate how toxic and many chemicals are on our food.

    That is precisely my goal of — to help raise awareness. Please spread the word about the Dirty Dozen.

    Live well,

    Written by Max Goldberg on January 14, 2011 @ 3:20 pm
  10. I like the list, but keep in mind: buying (any) organic produce reduces pesticide use. I agree that safety for the consumer is important, but keep in mind the overall impact that pesticide use is having on the workers who are exposed to it and to the overall environment. Thanks for raising awareness on this issue.

    Written by Jan on February 3, 2011 @ 12:15 pm
  11. Hi Jan,

    There is no doubt about it. Exposure to the farmers and environment are very, very serious issues.

    Thanks for your feedback.

    Live well,

    Written by Max Goldberg on February 3, 2011 @ 11:17 pm
  12. While papaya is on the “clean” list, please remember that most Hawaiian papaya is now genetically engineered. Pesticide is not the only danger in our food.

    Written by Charla on March 23, 2011 @ 1:50 am
  13. Hi Charla,

    I did not know that Hawaiian papaya is now GE, thanks for letting us know. The list comes from the Environmental Working Group.

    Nevertheless, you are completely right. Pesticides are only part of the equation. GE is definitely another part of it as well. To the best of my knowledge, however, a majority of the fruits and vegetables are not GE.

    Also, if the radiation from Japan really starts to spread and hits Hawaii and California, that could change this whole list dramatically. It could become much more geographic.

    Thanks for your input.

    Live well,

    Written by Max Goldberg on March 23, 2011 @ 9:22 am
  14. How can We identify chemically treated fruits and vegetable ?

    Written by Mahesh on December 3, 2011 @ 3:40 am
  15. Hi Mahesh,

    You want to buy certified organic fruits and vegetables. If you are buying at a farmer’s market, as the farmer if they use chemicals on the their crops. Most of them will tell you the truth. I’ve had a few told me that they use chemicals for pest control.

    Also, here is a good video that it explains it in more depth.

    Live well,

    Written by Max Goldberg on December 3, 2011 @ 2:56 pm
  16. Hi, Max.

    I just joined your website. I am not sure I totally understand this “dirty dozen” – are you saying that if I buy these “bad ones” but they are organic then they are okay? Or are you saying that even if they are organic they are still really bad for you to eat? Can you clarify?

    Many thanks,

    Written by Diana on July 1, 2012 @ 9:38 pm
  17. Hi Diana,

    The Dirty Dozen are the most-pesticide laden foods of non-organic foods. If you buy any of these that are organic, you are fine because organic does not use synthetic pesticides.

    I hope this makes sense now.

    Live well,

    Written by Max Goldberg on July 2, 2012 @ 11:25 am
  18. Hi Max,
    How did the tomato go from the Dirty Dozen to the Clean list all of a sudden? I eat a good share of those little, red goodies, and always make sure they are organic. Maybe I don’t have to be so careful any longer?

    Written by Shawneea on July 31, 2012 @ 10:09 pm
  19. Hi Shawneea!

    Great to see you here.

    I am not sure what you mean because I don’t see tomatoes on the Dirty Dozen. Here is the most recent version that came out a few weeks ago.

    I would always buy tomatoes organic because you’re eating the skin, unlike an orange where you’re peeling the rind off.

    Hope you’re great!

    Live well,

    Written by Max Goldberg on August 2, 2012 @ 1:04 pm
  20. Hi Max,
    I used to think that I was allergic to certain types of fruits. Then I read somewhere that some people actually have a reaction to the pesticides. I tried organic and never had a problem with anything organic. So glad that I have the “dirty dozen” list to refer to!


    Written by Jackie on December 14, 2012 @ 10:38 pm
  21. Hi Jackie,

    I am glad that this helps you. Dr. Mark Hyman, one of the country’s leading doctors, believes that pesticides interferes with insulin production and helps contributes to diabetes. So, these pesticides are things that people need to be very aware of.

    Live well,

    Written by Max Goldberg on December 18, 2012 @ 9:36 am
  22. Hello again Max,

    I just posted a question on shopping at Farmer’s Market but I was reading these comments and you have already answered it. I will ask my Farmer’s Market if they chemically treat their crops.

    Thank you so much.

    Written by Iris Nunez on February 21, 2013 @ 12:00 pm
  23. Thanks for the article, Max. I agree with Shawneea about tomatoes (you seem to have misunderstood her point) – your article does NOT list tomatoes in Dirty Dozen, but rather as no.14 in the ‘clean 15′. However, in your response to Shawneea you do say that you’d buy tomatoes only organic, since we’re eating the skins… Confusing.

    Also, corn and peas are listed in the ‘clean 15′ as well here, but what about the fact that it’s two of the most GMO-crops, especially corn?

    Written by Polina on February 23, 2013 @ 2:55 pm
  24. No worries Iris!

    Live well,

    Written by Max Goldberg on February 24, 2013 @ 9:48 am
  25. Hi Polina,

    The Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 are not list that I have created but they are by the Environmental Working Group. I buy organic, even if it is on the Clean 15 because those foods are by no means pesticide-free.

    In terms of corn and peas, it goes without saying that I buy organic for the very reason that you stated.

    Live well,

    Written by Max Goldberg on February 24, 2013 @ 10:07 am
  26. Some of the produce on your “Clean” list is terrible! I am shocked that you would have corn & tomato there, considering they are almost 100% GMO now. Especially corn & all products made with corn , corn syrup, etc.. You do know what Genetically Modified Organisms are, don’t you? Monsanto seed? It has been banned in many countries already, including Europe just today. America is refusing to ban it for some unknown reason. Over 800 scientists are SCREAMING that GMO is bio-war on our food. It is Russian Roulette to eat that food, except even Russia is OUTRAGED over Obama’s protection of Monsanto. People , please do some research into what you are REALLY eating! Millions of people around the would just marched against Monsanto this past weekend. It is SERIOUS SERIOUS SERIOUS!!!!

    Written by A WIlliams on May 29, 2013 @ 7:47 pm
  27. Hi Amanda,

    A) This is not “my” list. This is from Environmental Working Group.

    B) Based on my knowledge, you are wrong about corn and tomatoes. As of now, the corn available to consumers, as stalks of corn or sweet corn, is not GMO. What is GMO is the corn used for processed food.

    Written by Max Goldberg on May 30, 2013 @ 9:07 am

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