Pesticides in Fruits and Vegetables | When to Buy Organic

By Kevin Hurley

As someone who was raised on meat and potatoes, picking out what fruits and vegetables to eat is a daunting task. While I usually try to buy organic fruits and veggies from one of the various Local Grown NYC Food Markets, often I end up in my neighborhood supermarket faced with a decision. Should I spend the extra money and buy organic?

Fortunately, I recently acquired a handy guide to assist me in the decision making process. A colleague gave me the “Pocket Guide Tips for Growing Up Green and Healthy” produced by the Mount Sinai Children’s Environmental Health Center. This credit card sized guide uses data from the Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce to list which fruits and vegetables have the most pesticide residues. These fruits and vegetables are the most important to buy organic.

We all know that pesticides are used by farmers to keep pests from destroying fruit and vegetable crops. However, you may not have known that traces of these pesticides, known as pesticide residue, stay on fruits and vegetables even after you wash them. While EPA establishes the maximum pesticide tolerances in order to protect human health and the environment, certain types of produce naturally tend to retain and absorb higher levels of this pesticide residue.So which fruits and vegetables retain the highest amounts of pesticides?

Apples, celery, strawberries, peaches and spinach are listed as having the highest levels of pesticide residue. For these fruits and vegetables, along with the others listed on the “Pocket Guide,” you may want to consider going organic. I know I will.

About the Author:  Kevin has been working as a Grants Management Specialist with the EPA since 2007, and is currently on detail serving as special assistant to the Regional Administrator.  He grew up in South Jersey, went to school outside of Baltimore, and received a Masters in Public Policy from Rutgers University.  Kevin currently resides in the Upper East Side of Manhattan where you can usually find him exercising or playing outdoor ice hockey in Central Park.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.