Dirty dozen: 2013 list of most pesticide-heavy fruits and veggies

Unless it’s smothered in caramel or part of a sugary pie, we can’t think of many times when an apple isn’t good for you. But the ever-nutritious fruit once again tops a bad-news list that might make you consider it in a different light.

For the ninth year in a row, the nonprofit advocacy agency Environmental Working Group (EWG) has released their Dirty Dozen list. And apples top this ranking of the most pesticide-contaminated fruits and vegetables.

The Dirty Dozen, part of the EWG’s annual Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, is determined from a field of 48 popular nutritious eats. Even after washing, 67 percent of food samples carried pesticide residues, according to the data the EWG analyzed from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration.

While health-minded shoppers in the past may have balked at the price of some organic produce, the EWG notes a shifting attitude toward shopping. "When given a choice, more consumers are choosing organic fruits and vegetables or using EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to find an easy affordable way to avoid toxic chemicals," EWG Senior Analyst Sonya Lunder said in a statement. "They want to eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables without eating too many pesticides. And they want to support local farms and agriculture that is better for the environment."

Pesticides have been linked to a number of health concerns, particularly development problems in children. They may also act as carcinogens or disrupt the hormone system in the body, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Of course, pesticide exposure is not a good enough reason to skip fruits and veggies altogether. "The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure," the EWG writes in the Shopper’s Guide. The guide can help you reduce exposure as much as possible — especially if you pick produce from the supplementary Clean 15, but eating conventionally-grown produce is far better than not eating fruits and vegetables at all."