The 2024 Dirty Dozen List Is Out, and These Are the Fruits and Veggies You Should Definitely Splurge On

Fruits and vegetables

Crunchy folks, brace yourselves.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) released its 2024 "Dirty Dozen" list, revealing the 12 produce items (out of 46 tested) that are the most "contaminated with pesticides," herbicides (weed killers) and fungicides (which are used to kill and/or curb the development of harmful molds and mildew).

Whether you're a longtime follower of the yearly Dirty Dozen or Clean 15 lists or you've never heard of it before, here's what to know about this list.

What Is the Dirty Dozen?

The list is comprised with data from United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tests on 47,510 samples of 46 different fruits and vegetables.

Those tests are done differently by each agency: According to the EWG, "[t]he USDA peels or scrubs and washes produce samples before they're tested, whereas the FDA removes only dirt first. Even after these steps, the agencies' tests still found traces of 254 pesticides in all fruits and vegetables tested."

EWG reported that several of the chemicals detected were linked to cancers and hormonal disruptions in some studies, some of which were conducted on animals.

Related: 10 Surprising Foods Experts Say You Should Buy Organic

2024 Dirty Dozen List

This year, the Dirty Dozen consists of:

  1. Strawberries

  2. Spinach

  3. Collard greens, kale and mustard greens

  4. Grapes

  5. Peaches

  6. Pears

  7. Nectarines

  8. Apples

  9. Bell peppers and hot peppers

  10. Cherries

  11. Blueberries

  12. Green beans

EWG notes that the most individual pesticides (a total of 103) were found on collard greens, kale and mustard greens, followed by bell peppers and hot peppers with 101. It's important to remember, however, that these levels are, historically, still far below what's deemed as safe tolerance levels by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Related: The Best Fruit to Help You Poop

2024 Clean Fifteen List

Conversely, EWG's Clean Fifteen (the 15 produce items with the least pesticide, herbicide and fungicide residue) for 2024 are:

  1. Avocados

  2. Sweet corn

  3. Pineapple

  4. Onions

  5. Papaya

  6. Frozen sweet peas

  7. Asparagus

  8. Honeydew melon

  9. Kiwi

  10. Cabbage

  11. Watermelon

  12. Mushrooms

  13. Mangoes

  14. Sweet potatoes

  15. Carrots

Avocados and sweet corn were reportedly the cleanest produce, with less than 2% of samples showing any "detectable pesticide residues."

Related: The #1 Healthiest Fruit, According to Registered Dietitians

What to Keep In Mind About the 2024 Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen

The EWG has been funded in part by the organic food industry and has come under fire from toxicologists and scientists before, so this is worth keeping in mind when choosing between organic and non-organic fruits and veggies.

Within this context, the EWG recommends buying organic produce if you're concerned about pesticides and fungicides, but it's important to note that organic doesn't mean pesticide-free. Most organically grown fruits and vegetables still use some form of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. By definition, organic produce must be grown on farms that don't use most (not any or all) synthetic herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers. (There are other qualifications also, but we're specifically talking about the pesticide, herbicide and fungicide context.)

Of course, organic produce is typically a lot pricier than the standard fare, and it's probably not totally necessary, especially for produce that you're peeling or otherwise removing skin from anyway. If you do want to splurge, organic leafy greens may be the most economically and nutritionally sound, as they're typically not peeled before eating.

That said, a study published by the National Institute of Health indicated that rinsing most leafy vegetables under running water reduced fungicide, herbicide and pesticide residues significantly, as did blanching and boiling.

Related: The 20 Healthiest Vegetables, According to Nutritionists

Further, there's a strong chance that most of us aren't eating the amount of fruits and vegetable servings required to get close to harmful levels of pesticide, herbicide or fungicide levels. To see just how much you'd need to consume to be anywhere near unsafe (spoiler alert: It's probably more than you'd eat in decades and possibly a lifetime), check out this handy calculator.

Long story short: It may be worthwhile to splurge and go organic for certain fruits and veggies, such as strawberries, leafy greens, grapes and peaches. But if you do buy the non-organic version of these foods once in a while, don't freak out—just give them an extra rinse or two in the sink.

Next, The Best Foods for Longevity