WASHINGTON - Apples, peppers, celery and cherries top a list compiled by an environmental research organization of the 12 fruits and vegetables it says are the most contaminated by pesticides.
The report from the Environmental Working Group ranks pesticide contamination for 46 fruits and vegetables, based on more than 100,000 lab tests conducted between 1992 and 2001 by the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration. Additional testing was done on organic produce by the state of California.
The top 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables also include imported grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, potatoes, red raspberries, spinach and strawberries.
The 12 least contaminated are asparagus, avocados, bananas, broccoli, cauliflower, corn, kiwi, mangoes, onions, papayas, pineapples and sweet peas.
Since 1993 when the group published its last study of pesticide levels in produce, the items that made up what the advocacy group calls the "dirty dozen" have remained the same.
But now it is easier for people who are concerned about pesticides to do something about it. Because of the widespread availability of organic produce, they have alternatives.
Washing will not change the rankings, the group says, because the samples on which the data are based were washed or peeled. It recommends buying organic produce in place of the most contaminated conventional produce, but says that conventional produce is acceptable for the least-contaminated list.