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You might be thinking film and Oscar glory here. But no, we’re sadly not talking about a critically acclaimed 1967 film about a dozen convicted murderers assigned to assassinate German officers in World War II. We’re rather referring to a list of fruits and vegetables that are the most pesticide-riddled or contaminated, even after washing.

Each year, the Environmental Working Group, a US-based advocacy organisation made up of scientists, researchers and policymakers, releases its 12 worst food offenders, the ones that test the highest in pesticide residues, which, whenever possible, we should buy organic.

By ranking the fruits and vegetables in order based on how much or how little pesticides they contain, the EWG is hoping to bring transparency to our food supply and encourage informed and healthy choices, in turn telling us when it’s worth spending more cash.

Pesticides are inherently toxic and can lead to a host of health problems, including cancer, according to the David Suzuki Foundation, an environmental research body based in Canada.

Last year, an international study led by researchers in the UK and partly funded by the European Union, found that “eating organic fruits and vegetables could be equivalent to an extra two portions of the recommended five a day” because they have more antioxidants and lower levels of toxic metals.

It’s clear that choosing foods of the highest quality can have a significant impact on our health and wellbeing, not to mention reducing our pesticide consumption. But eating only organic fruits and vegetables can prove expensive when on a budget, but if you make an effort to buy these 12 organically, you’re heading in the right direction.

The 2015 results, which consider how people prepare and wash fresh produce, are based on tests performed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2013 on over 3,000 samples.

Here are some highlights from the 2015 EWG report:

  • Apples top the list – again – and for a fifth year in a row.
  • 99% of apples, 98% of peaches and 97% of nectarines sampled tested positive for at least one pesticide residue.
  • Peaches and nectarines rank high because they are often treated with chemicals both before and after harvest to ensure longer preservation.
  • The average potato has more pesticides by weight than any other produce.
  • A single grape sample and a sweet bell pepper sample contained 15 pesticides.

“Dirty Dozen” 2015 list in order of contamination:

  1. Apples
  2. Peaches
  3. Nectarines
  4. Strawberries
  5. Grapes
  6. Celery
  7. Spinach
  8. Sweet bell peppers
  9. Cucumbers
  10. Cherry tomatoes
  11. Snap peas (imported)
  12. Potatoes

By our online editor Chantal Ouimet 

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