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WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA9) -- It has a healthy reputation, but had the most pesticide residue among the fruits and vegetables tested.

The apple tops the Environmental Working Groups's Dirty Dozen list along with strawberries and kale.

"The USDA washes and peels the produce items that it tests and they still find pesticide residue on 65 percent of samples," says Environmental Working Group's Alex Formuzis.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture set limits on how much pesticide residue is deemed safe. And requires all produce sold in stores to meet those standards.

But the watchdog group says pesticide levels haven't changed significantly in over a decade.

Health experts say the best way to avoid pesticides in produce is to buy organic.

But, for shoppers who don't have the extra budget for organic produce, there is another lists. It's called the Clean 15, produce items with the lowest amounts of residue, like pineapples and avocados.

The EWG says a diet rich in colorful fruits and veggies still outweighs the risk of pesticide exposure.

"I'm more concerned if it smells fresh or looks fresh. If that means the non-organic one looks better that's the one I probably will go with," says shopper Mark Ramsey.

The Environmental Working Group's report is designed to help shoppers make more informed choices before they check out.

And, in a statement, the Environmental Protection Agency says if at any time it receives new data about risks posed by a pesticide, the agency will move quickly to take appropriate regulatory action.

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