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Strawberries, spinach, kale top 2021 'Dirty Dozen' contamination list

Workers are seen picking strawberries at a farm in Marina, Calif., on April 28, 2020. File Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI
Workers are seen picking strawberries at a farm in Marina, Calif., on April 28, 2020. File Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo

March 17 (UPI) -- Strawberries, spinach and kale topped an annual list released on Wednesday that details products that contain the most pesticide residue on the fruits and vegetables market.

The list compiled by the Environmental Working Group, called the "Dirty Dozen," outlines which fruits and vegetables are most contaminated.

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The EWG also produces a "Clean 15" list, which describes which fruits and vegetables have the least amount of pesticide residue. Both lists are based on data from the U.S. Agriculture Department.

On the 2021 Dirty Dozen list are strawberries, spinach, kale, collard and mustard greens, nectarines, apples, grapes, cherries, peaches, pears, bell and hot peppers, celery and tomatoes.

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Topping the Clean 15 are avocados, followed by sweet corn, pineapples, onions, papaya, frozen sweet peas, eggplants, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, kiwi, cauliflower, mushrooms, honeydew melon and cantaloupes.

"We urge consumers who are concerned about their pesticide intake to consider, when possible, purchasing organically grown versions of the foods on EWG's Dirty Dozen, or conventional produce from our Clean 15," EWG toxicologist Dr. Thomas Galligan said in a statement.

The group said tests done by the Agriculture Department found residues of potentially harmful chemical pesticides on almost 70% of the non-organic fresh U.S. produce. The department performed common washing, scrubbing and peeling of the items before testing.

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The EWG noted that most of the pesticide residues fell under federally mandated limits, but that doesn't mean they're always safe.

"The EPA's tolerances are often far higher than what many scientists believe is safe -- particularly for pregnant women, babies and young children," EWG President Ken Cook said.

Tamika Sims, senior director of food technology at the International Food Informational Council, said the main impact of lists like the Dirty Dozen is that they frighten consumers.

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"This list should have no impact on your shopping habits," Sims said in a report by USA Today. "[The USDA and EPA] work conservatively to make sure all these fruits and vegetables are safe for consumption."

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