Organic Choices


CC Photo by Roving-Aye! on Flickr

Fruits And Vegetables with Lowest Pesticide Loads:

For detailed USDA specifics see below…

  • Onions: Insects leave onions alone.
  • Scallions: Insects leave them alone too.
  • Avocado: Thick skin prevents absorption.
  • Asparagus: Does not absorb pesticides.
  • Kiwi: Skin is a barrier.
  • Pineapple: Thick skin absorbs the pesticides, protecting the fruit.
  • Broccoli: Hit or miss. Only 12% found with residues, but up to 19 residues found on one sample. Not sprayed that heavily.
  • Eggplant: 74% were found free of pesticides.
  • Cabbage: Not sprayed heavily.
  • Mangoes: Skin is a barrier.
  • Brussels Sprouts: Bugs don’t like them.
  • Sweet Peas: Their shell protects them. 85% were free of pesticides.
  • Sweet Corn: Does not have very high pesticide residues, but-be wary as well over 75 % of domestic corn is genetically modified.
  • Cantaloupe Domestic: hard skin is protective. (Avoid Mexican cantaloupes.)
  • Grapefruit: Thick skin keeps out the chemicals.
  • Mushrooms: Do not need many chemicals.

Worst Fruits

For detailed USDA specifics see below…

Apples The USDA tests found 98% of apples had residues.
Apples may be sprayed up to 16 times with 47 different pesticides [1].
Peaches The highest multiple pesticide residues of any fruit or vegetable. Numerous pesticides found in high concentration.
Pesticides seep through skin. Sprayed with
fungicides thiabendazole and iprodione post harvest.
96% tested found to have pesticide residue.
67 different chemical combinations used.
Strawberries Fungicides galore.
Imported strawberries are especially bad.
Many are color enhanced with a fungicide!
During USDA tests 93% of strawberries had residues.
53 different residue/pesticides were found.
Nectarines Absorbent skin. Sprayed heavily. 97% found with pesticides.
Peel if non-organic.
Blueberries Tests show domestic blueberries (13 pesticides detected on a single blueberry!) have a higher pesticide load than imported.
But both are high.
Pears Drinks in the pesticides. Sprayed heavily.
Raspberries Heavily Sprayed. Pesticides stay in crevasses.
U.S. Cherries Domestic have more pesticide residues than imported.
Imported Grapes Sprayed heavily, often with chemicals banned in the US.
All grapes (Imported and Domestic) tested over 6 years averaged 75% with residues. Chilean grapes averaged 92% detection rates as compared with 65% for domestic grapes.
Mexican Cantaloupes Multiple pesticides found.
Raisins Multiple residues found. Methoxyfenozide on 75% of tested.

Worst Vegetables

For detailed USDA specifics see below…

Bell Peppers Heavily sprayed with neurotoxic pesticides.
63 different chemicals have been found on peppers.
11 on one sample fruit.
Celery 95% tested found with significant residues.
13 different chemical residues found on one sample. A total of 57 different pesticides have been found on celery samples.
Lettuce Some of the most toxic pesticides (54 of them)
are sprayed on lettuces.
Carrots 27.5% tested found with residues of DDE, a metabolite of DDT, 25 years after DDTs ban!  78.3% found with Linuron,
57.4% with Trifluralisn.
Potatoes High pesticide and fungicide residues.
Frozen potatoes hold the pesticides just as well.  Many are genetically modified as well as laden with pesticides. 61.4% tested found with high levels of Chlorpropham. You cannot wash off the pesticides as they seep into the flesh.
Spinach ‘Multiple’ pesticide residues found.
37.6% tested found with residues of DDE, a metabolite of DDT. 71.7% sampled found with Imidacloprid. Acetamiprid, Acephate and Cyhalothrinhave been found over the EPA tolerance level. NRDC says “Pesticide residue doesn’t wash off spinach leaves”. USDA tests show canned and frozen spinach still contain high residues [4].
Kale/Collard Greens 10 pesticides found on a single sample.
79% tested had residues.
Green Beans 51 different pesticides have been found on one green bean.
Warning, pesticides do not greatly diminish when canned or frozen.
Domestic are currently worse than imported.
Cucumbers Mexican cucumbers showed 92% detection rates compared with 62% for domestic. Their wax coating locks in fungicides.
Tomatoes Tested for 4 years by USDA, average 63% found with residues.
Cilantro Has just been added to the list – 44% of the cilantro samples tested had residue from at least one unapproved pesticide. 34 unapproved pesticides have recently been found on cilantro.

Other Foods with High Pesticide Levels, GMOs, or Growth Hormones

Attempt to steer clear of Non-Organic:

Applesauce If you read the USDA tests… you will never eat non-organic applesauce ever again!   No less give it to your children.
Rice Rice is sprayed with significant doses of pesticides.
Milk Loaded with antibiotics and the growth hormones rBST, rBGH.
99% sampled by USDA had residues.
Heavy Cream 99% sampled by USDA had residues.
Butter must be as bad.
Soybeans Almost all non-organic soybeans are genetically modified and most seeds are genetically embedded with herbicides.
Over 80% of soybeans are GM.
Eggs Non-organic are full of antibiotics and hormones.
Due to a change in feed many organic eggs are now rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Free range are the healthiest- when chickens can supplement their diet with seeds and bugs from the yard.
Juice Although there is some diminishing of pesticide residue during processing, buying organic apple and other fruit juices from high levels list is safest. According to the Environmental Working Group,”the average one-year-old drinks twenty-one times more apple juice, eleven times more grape juice, and nearly five times more orange juice per unit of body weight
than the average American adult” [9 & 12].
Nuts Pesticides find a  home in their fat content.
Coffee Imported with pesticides.
Popcorn If you eat a lot of Popcorn remember that organic
guarantees no GMO’s.
Meat Laden with hormones, antibiotics, and fed with pesticide-filled
and GMO feed grain. Not to mention global warming consequences!

F&V found with Mid-Range Levels of Pesticides

See detailed USDA specifics below…

Cherries Multiple pesticides found domestic and imported.
Winter and Summer Squash Multiple pesticides found on a small percentage of vegetables.
Winter Squash is hit or miss. 46% found with residues. Dieldrin
Tomatoes Tested for 4 years by USDA average 63%
found with residues.
Oranges Tested by USDA for 6 years, 83% found with residues [6].
Sprayed with fungicides thiabendazole and iprodione post harvest.
Plums and Prunes High levels of Fludioxonil and Phosmet
Grapes Domestic – a bit better than imported.
Bananas The banana export industry consumes more agrochemicals than any other crop apart from cotton. Plus, bananas are sprayed with many chemicals post-harvest, including Thiabendazole which causes Brain and Nervous System damage.  Conventional banana plantations wreak environmental damage and affect the health of farm workers.
Watermelon Acephate over the EPA tolerance levels has been found.
Allethrin found as well.
Cauliflower There are many alternate ways to keep bugs away from cauliflower.
Papaya Thick skinned.
Blueberries Blueberries like a lot of water, that washes off some of the pesticides. But growers are using more and more pesticides on blueberries…
Wheat 63% tested have significant levels of Malathion.
High levels of Methoprene, Methoxychlor p,p, Pirimiphos methyl found occasionally as well. Sometimes levels of Carbofuran exceed recommended levels.
Rates of pesticide application vary significantly among crops…
Vegetable and Fruit Washes:
Make your own produce wash with either a couple of teaspoons of vinegar or a few drops of eco-dishwashing liquid or organic castile soap in a few cups of water, dip the fruit or vegetable a couple of times and then rinse with clean water. Or thoroughly, but softly scrub the produce with the solution, then rinse with water.
“Researchers in Texas substantially reduced the pesticide residues on 17 popular fruits and vegetables by washing in a dilute solution of dish detergent (1 tsp. per gallon of water),
then rinsing in slightly warm water” [11].
In the 2005 and 2006 data the USDA tested for 252 parent pesticides, metabolites, degradates, and/or isomers. The fruits and vegetables were tested after peeling or washing.
2006 data supplants 2005 data when available [5].
Approximately 82% of all samples were from US growers and 16% were imported [6].
USDA Data* on: What percentage tested were found with residues: How many different residues were detected: USDA Percentage tested found with:
Apples 98% 43 70% tested found with Acetamiprid.
31.5% found with Azinphos methyl.
11% found with insecticide Carbaryl
83% with fungicide DPA.
26.6% found with insecticide Imidacloprid
19.4% insecticide Phosmet
15.3% with Tetrahydrophthalimide
88% with Thiabendazole (fungicide)
Methyl parathion, chlorpyrifos
Acephate has been found over tolerance
Applesauce 93% 28 18.5% found with 5-Hydroxythiabendazole
17.5% found with insecticide Imidacloprid
25.5% with insecticide Methoxyfenozide
21.8% with Tetrahydrophthalimide
38.8% with Thiabendazole (fungicide)
But 80-90% of the benomyl residue (the
fungicide suspected of causing birth defects) is
removed when apples are made into applesauce 11
Bananas 76% 16 30.7% found with Imazalil (fungicide)
65.5% with Thiabendazole (fungicide and
(Non-orgainic banana plantations wreak
environmental damage to the environment, and
hurt farm workers as well)
Broccoli 88% 19 80.5% found with insecticide Imidacloprid
Cabbage 18%
Cantaloupe 52% 27 Avoid Mexican-Central Am. cantaloupe
28.5% found with Endosulfan sulfate
Acephate sometimes found over safe limits
Carrots 84% 25 27.5% tested found with residues of DDE, a
metabolite of DDT.  Quintozene found.
78.2% found with herbicide Linuron,
37.5% with Pyraclostrobin (fungicide)
57.5% with Trifluralin (herbicide)
(Tetrachlorphenvinphos diminishes the content
of carotene in carrots by 15 – 20% and content
of vitamin C by 20 – 30%) 10
Cauliflower 80% 16 76.5% found with insecticide Imidacloprid
Celery Sprayed with neurotoxin chlorthalonil.
Cranberries 69% 13 Spinosad has been found over the safe EPA level.
47.6% with 1-Naphthol
Cucumbers Often absorbs banned dieldrin from the soil.
Eggplant 26% 19 On a small percentage Acephate has been found
over the recommended safe level, as well as
Chlorothalonil (a fungicide)
11.8% found with Endosulfan sulfate
Grapefruit 46% 11 40% found with fungicide Imazalil
66.7% with Thiabendazole (fungicide)
Grapes, domestic 34 Some found with dimethoate and Captan (a fungicide)
27% with fungicide Cyprodinil
16% found with fungicide Iprodione
Grapes, imported 34
Green Beans, fresh 21% found with Acephate.
58.6% found with Endosulfan sulfate.  36%
found with Chlorothalonil (a fungicide)
43.6% found with Endosulfan I,
32% found with Endosulfan II
25% with Methamidophos.
60.8% with fungicide o-Phenylphenol
100% with Tetrahydrophthalimide
Green Beans, frozen 92% 22 26.8% found with insecticide Acephate.
25.4% with insecticide Methamidophos.
100% with fungicide o-Phenylphenol
47.4% with Vinclozolin (fungicide)
Dimethoate (three neurotoxic OPs), and
endosulfan, an endocrine-disrupting insecticide.
Frozen also found with Bifenthrin.
Greens, Collard 73% 24 Levels of Cyhalothrin have been found well over
the safe limits.
20% with insecticide Methoxyfenozide
22% with Pyraclostrobin (fungicide)
11.8% with insecticide Spinosad Total
Greens, Kale 70% 33 32.4% tested found with residues of DDE, a
metabolite of DDT.
28.6% found with insecticide Imidacloprid.
28% with insecticide Methoxyfenozide
Cyhalothrin, Lambda have been found over the
EPA tolerance level.
10 different pesticides have been found on one
Kiwi 15%
Lettuce 94% 52 100% found with Chlorothalonil (a fungicide)
some with high levels.
15.7% found with insecticide Acetamiprid
30.7% found with herbicide DCPA.
14.7% found with DDE p,p’ (a metabolite of
10.2% with Dimethoate
28.5% with fungicide Dimethomorph
73% found with insecticide Imidacloprid
13.5% found with insecticide Methomyl
19.7% with Permethrin cis and trans (17%)
Nectarines 97%
Onions 1%
Oranges 90% 16 43.7% with Thiabendazole (fungicide)
74.2% found with fungicide Imazalil
34.3% with fungicide o-Phenylphenol
Orange Juice 53% 9 52% with fungicide o-Phenylphenol
Approximately 21% of orange juice
samples were comprised of juice from oranges
grown in different countries.
Peaches 99% 37 20% found with Propargite
53.3% found with fungicide Fludioxonil
33% found with fungicide Iprodione (high)
28% with insecticide Methoxyfenozide
20% with 1-Naphthol
37.8% with insecticide Phosmet
18.7% with insecticide Propargite
17.8% with Propiconazole (fungicide)
25.6% with Pyraclostrobin (fungicide)
10.5% with Spinosad Total
Often sprayed with the fungicides captan and
Pears 85% 29 Methyl parathion,
25% found with azinphos-methyl an OP, 11%
found with Captan (fungicide),
11% found with Carbaryl (an insecticide)
14.8% with insecticide Phosmet
66.7% with Thiabendazole (fungicide)
Peas, sweet, frozen 15% 12 Dimethoate
Plums, domestic 55% Small percentage found with Chlorpyrifos (an
insecticide) over the EPA tolerance levels.
36% found with fungicide Iprodione
19% with Fludioxonil
15.5% with insecticide Phosmet
Plums, imported 98% 21
Potatoes, frozen 88% 26 High pesticide and fungicide residues.
61.4% tested found with high levels of
33.1% found with insecticide Imidacloprid
Found with dieldrin, methamidophos and
Prunes 10% 12
Raisins, domestic 63% 29 78% with insecticide Methoxyfenozide
31.5% with insecticide Propargite
55.6% with Pyraclostrobin (fungicide)
25.8% with Trifloxystrobin (fungicide)
Raspberries Some found with captan, iprodione and
carbaryl. “Pesticide residues in raspberries in
2000-2005 in the EU. Tolylfluanid residues
(43% of the analysed samples), Procymidone
residues (33%), Pyrimethanil residues (15%),
EBDC residues (8%) and iprodione residues
(5%), while insecticides (mainly synthetic
pyrethroids) cypermethrin residues (6%) and
bifenthrin (4%). In 8 % of analysed samples
EBDC residues exceeded the national Maximum
Residue Level established for raspberries. 2
Spinach 94% 58 Nine residues found on one sample.
34.2% tested found with residues of DDE, a
metabolite of DDT.
72% sampled found with Imidacloprid.
56.6% with Permethrin cis
56.2% Permethrin trans
24% with Pyraclostrobin (fungicide)
38% with Spinosad Total
Cyhalothrin and Cyhalothrin have been found
over the EPA tolerance level.   Acetamiprid,
Acephate, dimethoate and chlorthalonil  found
as well.
From 1998-2002 DDE p,p was detected in 28% of
fresh spinach samples, 21% of canned spinach, and
43% of frozen spinach.
Permethrin was detected in 61% of fresh
spinach samples, 79% of canned spinach, and 61% of
frozen spinach [6 &13].
Strawberries 93% 39 70% found with significant levels of the
fungicide Captan.
Small percentage found with very high doses of
Cyhalothrin and Cyhalothrin, well over the EPA
tolerance level.
18% found with fungicide Cyprodinil.
32% found with fungicide Fenhexamid.
11.8% found with insecticide Fenpropathrin
22.2% found with Fludioxonil
16% found with insecticide Malathion
16.7% found with insecticide Methomyl
34.7% with fungicide Myclobutanil, sometimes
exceeding EPA tolerance levels.
100% with fungicide o-Phenylphenol [2].
67.6% with Tetrahydrophthalimide
Summer Squash 95% 29 63.4% found with insecticide Endosulfan I
27.4% found with Endosulfan II
83.3% found with Endosulfan sulfate
20.4% with fungicide o-Phenylphenol
Water, bottled 19% 12
Watermelon 25% 28
Wheat 69% 15 Chlorpyrifos methyl. Carbofuran has been found
over the EPA tolerance level.
Winter Squash 46% 29 Acephate and Methamidophos have been found
over the EPA tolerance level.
29.3% found with Endosulfan sulfate
Found with high level of Hexaconazole.
Other Foods:
Butter Tested for POPs and found with Chlordane,
DDE. DDT. Dieldrin, Dioxin, Heptachlor and
Hexachlorobenzene [13].
Milk 99% 12 91.6% with Diphenylamine (DPA) significant
85% with DDE p,p’  (low levels)
Pesticides reside in fat, so choose low fat.
Peanut Butter 30% 8
Soybeans 22% 9 Dimethenamid, Permethrin Total, Trifluralin
Wheat 69% 15 23% with Chlorpyrifos methyl
67% with Malathion
Processed Fruit and Vegetables
‘ In most instances, washing by itself was shown to reduce residues, blanching reduced them even further, and the canning process led to even further decreases” [3].
But, remember the USDA washed the F&V samples (above) before testing.
That’s a lot of Cooking!
It was shown that thermal processing of spinach at 110°C for 60 minutes and apricots at 100°C for 50 minutes decreased the initial residue by 100 and 60% respectively. After one year’s storage of canned apricots at ambient temperatures the remaining residue had disappeared totally (Elkins et al. 1972). Household cooking of deep frozen beans with about 1 mg/kg azinphos-methyl for 15 minutes decreased the residue by about 85% (Carlin et al. 1966).
(Anderson et al. 1963, Gunther et al. 1963) [7].
Of Special Concern-Children:
According to EPA’s “Guidelines for Carcinogen Risk Assessment,” and the ” Supplemental Guidance for
Assessing Cancer Susceptibility from Early-Life Exposure to Carcinogens”
children receive 50% of their lifetime cancer risks in the first two years of life.And are ten times more susceptible to pesticide’s effects than adults.
See: EPA’s  Pesticides and Food: Why Children May be Especially Sensitive to Pesticides.
The US Department of Health and Human Services reports that organophosphate pesticides are now in the blood of 95% of Americans it has tested. And the levels are twice as high in children’s blood than in adults.
See Pesticides Article-in Pediatrics Journal– American Academy of Pediatrics.
‘Residue levels in lettuce were 40-80% lower when the guard leaves were removed.’ (8)



USDA Agricultural Marketing Service. Pesticide Data Program. 2006 Annual Summary – PDP Annual Summary for calendar year 2006 published in December 2007 (PDF)


USDA Agricultural Marketing Service. Pesticide Data Program. 2005 Annual Summary – PDP Annual Summary for calendar year 2005.


USDA Agricultural Marketing Service – Pesticide Data Program Progress Report. December 2008


University of Copenhagen. Reference to: Heaton S. 2001. Organic farming, food quality, and human health: A review of the evidence.


National Institutes of Health. Occurrence of pesticide residues in raspberries in 2000-2005.


National Academies. Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Children (1993) Commission on Life Sciences. ‘Elkins (1989) reported NFPA data on the effects of food processing operations on the residues of pesticides permitted on raw agricultural commodities…


Natural Resources Defense Council Pesticides on Produce


USDA’s Pesticide Data Program is a national pesticide residue database program. Through cooperation with State agriculture departments and other Federal agencies, PDP manages the collection, analysis, data entry, and reporting of pesticide residues on agricultural commodities in the U.S. food supply, with an emphasis on those commodities highly consumed by infants and children.


Overview of the USDA’s Pesticide Data Program from 1993 through 2003.


INCHEM, Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety. Old data from 1974.


INCHEM, Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety.

9) Environmental Working Group. Wiles, R. and C. Campbell, Pesticides in Children’s Food, 1993, p. 14.

10) orgprints.orgRembialkowska.pdf

Quality Low Input Food-Warsaw Agricultural University


The Pesticide Picture by Andrews University Christian Care health Initiatives


PEDIATRICS Vol. 113 No. 4 April 2004, pp. 1030-1036 Pesticides- American Academy of Pediatrics. ***


No Where to Hide. Top 10 Foods Most Contaminated with Persistent Toxic Chemicals. Pesticide Action Network North America.

The Environmental Working Group’s nice, clear analysis of the federal pesticide testing data for commonly eaten fruits and vegetables.

Organic Consumer’s Association. Government Facts-Pesticides and Children.

Consumer’s Union Report Card of the EPA. PDF.

Consumer’s Union Pesticides and Integrated Pest Management Page. Some good info here.

American Museum of Natual History printable guide lists the fruits and vegetables that are typically most likely to have higher pesticide residue levels.

Written by Keiren

Keiren is an artist who lives in New York City. A lover of animals, nature, science & green building. Keiren originally founded Inspiration Green in 2007, which merged with Insteading in 2016.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Farm to Table

Plastic Bag Statistics