The “Dirty Dozen” list, updated annually by the EWG, outlines which produce items are most likely to contain pesticides. The goal of this list is to help people consider which produce may be best to buy organic, according to the organization. Topping the “Dirty Dozen” list are strawberries, apples, nectarines, and peaches. The “Clean Fifteen” lists items the EWG says you can safely eat with minimal concern for pesticides, including avocados, sweet corn, and pineapples.
This year's list of fruits and vegetables found to have the most pesticide residue by the EWG includes:
10. Sweet bell peppers
11. Cherry tomatoes
“If a bug landed on your strawberry it’s not going to taste any different and it actually might be healthier because it wouldn’t have pesticides,” she said.
In 2012, approximately 70 percent of fruit and 61 percent of vegetables grown in the U.S. had detectable levels of pesticide residues. However, the vast majority -- 98 percent of fruits and 95 percent of vegetables -- were below legal limits.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) refers pediatricians and parents to the EWG for information when looking to reduce pesticide exposure. However, they explicitly state that it is more important for children to eat a wide variety of produce, conventional or organic. They also encourage washing produce thoroughly.
“If you can afford organic, great, but if you can’t, then you need to get it in any way you can, whether it’s in a can, frozen, or fresh,” Lowry said.
When shopping for your next batch of strawberries, remember that organic varieties may decrease your exposure to pesticides but there is not substantial evidence it will make you healthier.
“If I have the choice between eating the red, shiny [non-organic] strawberry or no strawberry, I’m going to eat the strawberry, and I’m going to tell my patients to eat the strawberry,” Lowry told ABC News.
Dr. Gretchen Winter is completing a combined residency in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at Indiana University and will be starting a fellowship in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at The Cleveland Clinic this year. She is a resident in the ABC News medical unit.