What Is the EWG's Dirty Dozen Food List?


Quick Answer

The Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen food lists is a collection of 12 produce items that experience the highest levels of exposure to pesticides, thus requiring special care and cleaning to make them safe for consumption. The guide does not warn readers against eating the foods all together, but instead seeks to educate them about the potential presence of chemicals prior to consumption.

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Full Answer

Each year the EWG examines 48 different domestic and imported produce items to determine the extent, severity and nature of residual pesticide accumulation. The organization then ranks the foods in two separate lists to highlight the presence or lack of chemicals by the time the items appear in grocery stores and other retail environments. The Dirty Dozen list focuses on foods that both experience a high exposure to pesticides as well as items that may require extensive cleaning to remove the chemicals or reduce them to safe levels.

The organization also publishes the foods with the least amount of pesticide residue in the Clean Fifteen list, which includes notes about any trace elements on specific items. The full results and rankings for the remaining items appear in a complete guide available through the organization, which ranks all produce from the test in a single location. It also offers other information about the findings from the data, such as the specific levels and general processes to reduce harmful effects.

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