The Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen for 2020

Even holistic health advocates can barely keep up with health food news.

And for good reason – those waters can get really murky. 

Is avocado still a superfood if we’ve stopped talking about it, and started talking goji berries? If your neighborhood doesn’t have an acai bowl joint, is your health doomed? What if last year’s superfood crop is damaged this year from a new strain of pesticide or virus?

That’s why the Environmental Working Group (EWG) created these two metrics: The Dirty Dozen and The Clean 15. They help keep the public informed about pesticide usage, as weather conditions and pest immunity can change year-to-year.

And when health crises strike, the best defense within our control is a strong immune system

As responsible citizens, it’s our duty to keep ourselves as healthy as we can be. To do that, we need reliable and updated information about what we’re eating.

The Clean 15: A list of the 15 fruits and vegetables that have the lowest concentration of pesticide contamination. These are considered the “safest” fruits and vegetables to purchase and eat this year.

The Dirty Dozen: The contrasting list shows the 12 fruits and vegetables affected with the highest concentration of pesticide contamination. These fruits and vegetables represent the least safe to purchase and eat this year.

It’s also important to note that the EWG’s determination is made after washing the fruits and vegetables – they’re testing for the residue that’s left on these foods after washing.

The EWG released its list resulting from 2019’s farming practices… 

And during the current global health crisis, it might be even more critical to keep in mind as everyone stocks up in anticipation of a possible quarantine.

The Clean 15 of 2020 

Below, you’ll find a list of the cleanest organic produce you can purchase this year:

  1. Onion
  2. Avocado
  3. Sweet corn
  4. Pineapple
  5. Asparagus
  6. Sweet peas
  7. Kiwi
  8. Cabbage
  9. Eggplant
  10. Papaya
  11. Watermelon
  12. Broccoli
  13. Cauliflower
  14. Cantaloupe
  15. Mushrooms

Focusing on these 15 items of produce should help you avoid the lion’s share of mass-industrial crop pesticides.

That brings us to the list of the dirty dozen…

The Dirty Dozen 

Below, you’ll find the list of organic produce with the highest chance of remaining contaminated by pesticides.

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale
  4. Nectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Peaches
  8. Cherries
  9. Pears
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Celery
  12. Potatoes

There are a couple of important things to note here…

For example, superfood kale has made the dirty dozen list. Kale hasn’t even been tested for pesticides since 2009. When it was, it ranked 8th on the dirty dozen list. And since then, kale production has increased by 56%.

When it was tested again, it was found to be contaminated with an agent called Dacthal, which the EPA has considered a possible carcinogen (due to the increased presence in liver and thyroid tumors in those who come in contact with it) since 1995. Dacthal has also been linked to lung, kidney, liver, and thyroid damage.

Keep traveling down the list. Quite a few of these foods are fruits. You’ll often see pesticides used the most in cases where fruits and vegetables are seasonal – after all, the purpose of pesticides and herbicides is to keep things growing where they might not if they were left to nature’s devices. 

For example, poisonous gases are sprayed on strawberry fields to keep them free from nature’s anti-strawberry agents all year round. The soil itself is infected. 

Apples were found doused in diphenylamine, a pesticide that’s banned by the European Union and considered safe in small doses in America. The pesticide is even found in 36% of applesauce samples. 

You may not think that pesticides affect your life and health.

After all, it’s only trace amounts. Most of the pesticides are gone by the time you eat the food, right?


According to a French study tracking almost 70,000 participants, people who ate primarily organic food experienced cancer at a rate of 25% less than those who weren’t eating organic food.

Pesticides are also largely considered endocrine disruptors, which can go on to affect fertility, hormonal balances, gender presentation, and reproductive health in general.

Short of a system-wide change, the only way to track your body’s intake of chemicals versus nutrients is to stay educated, informed, and ever vigilant about what kind of energy supply we’re giving our bodies.

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Dr. Pedram Shojai

NY Times Best Selling author and film maker. Taoist Abbot and Qigong master. Husband and dad. I’m here to help you find your way and be healthy and happy. I don’t want to be your guru…just someone who’ll help point the way. If you’re looking for a real person who’s done the work, I’m your guy. I can light the path and walk along it with you but can’t walk for you.