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Caitlin Bailey, M.Ed, LPC


A question I am asked weekly by clients is “Do I have to buy organic, or is this just a marketing ploy by high-end grocery stores to force me to pay more for groceries?” In order to help bring some clarity to this debate, I always refer clients to the Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen list.


Every year, the Environmental Working Group creates a list ranking popular fruits and vegetables based on their level of pesticide contamination. Strawberries have topped the list of contaminated produce for the past three years. Over one-third of strawberries tested contained over 10 pesticides, while some were found to have over 22 pesticide remnants. Over 96% of non-organic samples of spinach contained pesticides, and over 98% of strawberries, peaches, nectarines, potatoes, cherries, and apples tested positive for at least one pesticide. However, the United States has very strict rules on what are acceptable levels of pesticides for human consumption, so even though the “dirty dozen” contains higher levels of pesticides than the “clean fifteen,” the levels are still far below the federal safety standards for consumption.


Clean Fifteen

Dirty Dozen

1. Avocados

1. Strawberries

2. Sweet Corn

2. Spinach

3. Pineapples

3. Nectarines

4. Cabbage

4. Apples

5. Onions

5. Grapes

6. Sweet Peas

6. Peaches

7. Papayas

7. Cherries

8. Asparagus

8. Pears

9. Mangos

9. Tomatoes

10. Eggplant

10. Celery

11. Honeydew

11. Potatoes

12. Kiwi

12. Sweet Bell Peppers

13. Cantaloupe


14. Cauliflower


15. Broccoli


Organic: All lettuce, kale, raspberries, blueberries, all bell peppers.

Regular: Watermelon, Mushrooms, Bananas, Grapefruit


While organic produce may generally contain fewer pesticides, when you’re grocery shopping it’s not always necessary to buy all organic produce. Use this list when making your decisions. Those fruits and vegetables on the Clean15 are safe to buy non-organic, while those on the DirtyDozen should always be purchased organic if available.


If you would like further clarification or want to continue the conversation about organic vs. traditional produce, please give me a call at 713-621-9515.


Caitlin Bailey, M.Ed., LPC, Certified Health Coach.