The EWG, a non-profit activist and watchdog group, has compiled the list—called the “Dirty Dozen”—every year since 2004, highlighting which fruits and vegetables are contaminated with the most pesticide residue. The group analyzes Department of Agriculture test data to create their list, looking into how many different types pesticides are found on popular produce, as well as the levels of pesticide breakdown.
The biggest shocker from the 2019 Dirty Dozen was just how contaminated they found kale—a vegetable touted for its health benefits—to be. The list ranks kale as the third “dirtiest” item of produce on supermarket shelves, falling behind only strawberries and spinach, in first and second place, respectively.
A leafy green that has grown in popularity in the past decade, the EWG found kale to be contaminated with pesticide residue from at least two or more kinds of chemicals in 92 percent of samples. Some even contained residues from as many as 18 different pesticides.
“We were surprised kale had so many pesticides on it, but the test results were unequivocal,” said EWG toxicologist Alexis Temkin, Ph.D in the press release. “Fruits and vegetables are an important part of everyone’s diet, and when it comes to some conventionally grown produce items, such as kale, choosing organic may be a better option.”
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While this news may raise concerns, it doesn’t mean you should rule kale out of your healthy diet. The EWG recommends buying organic produce whenever you can, and EWG research analyst Carla Burns additionally notes that “the health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure.”
The moral of the story? Keep eating your greens.