These 12 foods are the most commonly and highly contaminated with pesticides and chemicals, even after washing and peeling. The research used to compile this list is from extensive independent tests run by the FDA and the USDA from over 100,000 samples of food. The chemical pesticides detected in these studies are known to cause cancer, birth defects, nervous system and brain damage, and development problems in children. Panic if it ain’t organic.

  1. Meat: beef, pork, & poultry
    The EPA reports that meat is contaminated with higher levels of pesticides than any plant food. Many chemical pesticides are fat-soluble and accumulate in fatty tissue of animals.

  2. Dairy: milk, cheese & butter
    For similar reasons to meat, the fat in dairy products pose a high risk for contamination of pesticides as animals concentrate pesticides and chemicals in their milk and meat. Growth hormones and antibiotics are also a serious concern and invariably found in commercial milk, cheese and butter.

  3. Strawberries
    Strawberries are the most heavily dosed crops with pesticides in America. On average, 300 lbs of pesticides are applied to every acre of strawberries (compared to an average of 25 lbs per acre for other foods).

  4. Apples
    With 36 different chemicals detected in FDA testing, half of which are neurotoxins (meaning they cause brain damage), apples are almost as contaminated as strawberries. Peeling non-organic apples reduces but does not eliminate the danger of ingesting these chemicals. Go organic, especially for children.

  5. Tomatoes
    More than 30 pesticides are standard regimen to spray on conventionally grown tomatoes. The thin skin does not protect chemicals from infiltrating the whole tomato. Bummer.

  6. Potatoes
    Potatoes are one of the most popular vegetables in America and rank among the most laden with pesticides. Fungicides added to soil where potatoes are grown is another story and reason to go organic.

  7. Spinach (and other greens including lettuce)
    The FDA found spinach to be one of the most frequently contaminated crops with some of the most potent pesticides used on food.

  8. Coffee
    Most coffee is grown is countries where there are little to no standards to regulate the use of chemicals and pesticides on food. Purchasing “Fair Trade” coffee is further assurance that the premium price paid for this treasured beverage supports farms and workers with more equanimity and reward.

  9. Peaches & Nectarines
    45 different pesticides are regularly applied to succulent, delicious peaches and nectarines in conventional orchards. The thin skin does not protect the fruit from the dangers of these poisons.

  10. Grapes (especially imported grapes)
    Because grapes are a delicate fruit, they are sprayed multiple times during different stages of growth. The thin skin does not offer much protection to the 35 different pesticides used as a standard in conventional vineyards. Imported grapes are even more heavily treated that domestically grown grapes. Several of the most poisonous pesticides banned in the U.S. are still used on grapes grown abroad.

  11. Celery
    At least 29 different chemicals are applied directly to conventionally grown celery as it grows, which cannot be washed off because celery does not have any protective skin.

  12. Bell Peppers (Red & Green)
    Bell peppers are one of the most heavily sprayed foods, with standard use of 39 pesticides. The thin skin of peppers does not offer much protection from spraying.