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Nursing students, faculty, and practicing nurses frequently encourage friends, families, and patients to consume more fruits and vegetables in pursuit of a healthier diet. However, consumers often express concerns about reducing exposure to pesticides used in growing produce. By familiarizing ourselves with the Environmental Working Group's (EWG's) 2013 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce list (, we can better assist our patients in making informed dietary choices. We can also offer them guidance related to which fruits and vegetables are worth paying "organic" prices for as consumers attempt to limit exposure to pesticides.


Apples again top the list of produce most likely to contain pesticide residues. Purchasing organic apples is thus advisable. Celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, hot peppers, nectarines, peaches, white potatoes, spinach, strawberries, bell peppers, kale/collards, and summer squash complete the "dirty dozen" list for produce. These fruits and vegetables are most likely to contain pesticide residues. Kale and collards are increasing in popularity. However, along with other leafy greens, these vegetables have shown residues of organophosphates, which are being phased out of agriculture because of their neurotoxicity. Summer squash (yellow crookneck squash and zucchini) are also of concern because of traces of organochlorines (removed from the market in 1970s) that, unfortunately, linger on some agricultural fields.


The "clean fifteen" are listed as asparagus, avocadoes, cabbage, cantaloupe, sweet corn, eggplant, grapefruit, kiwis, mangoes, mushrooms, onions, papayas, pineapple, sweet peas, and sweet potatoes. Consumers can rest assured that these items are not likely to contain pesticides. So purchasing "organic" varieties of these items may be preferred but is not necessary to decrease chemical exposure.


Providing consumers with accurate and up-to-date information related to healthy food choices is an important facet of healthcare and consumer education. Using resources, such as the EWG's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce provides for current information in making healthy dietary choices.


Source: Environmental Working Group (EWG). EWG Executive Summary. Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce. Available at Accessed June 10, 2013.


Submitted by: Alma Jackson, PhD, RN, COHN-S, News Editor at