Activist Groups Undermine First Lady’s “Let’s Move” Message About Healthy Eating

2/14/2012 12:28 PM


We’ve seen the First Lady making the media rounds lately promoting her “Let’s Move” campaign.  A key component in her message is getting Americans to eat more fruits and vegetables.  But, the First Lady’s message is being undermined by activist groups that continue to call popular produce items “dirty.”  Since the obesity epidemic is prevalent among lower income Americans, labeling more affordable fruits and vegetables “dirty” is counterproductive to the First Lady’s efforts and a disservice to public health. How can it not be?

Often these groups who distribute and publicize lists of “dirty” produce items hide behind statements like “it’s just a guide to help consumers.”  They also repeatedly state that American’s should, “eat your fruits and vegetables! The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure.” 

But directly following this “benefits” message, one group makes the scary statement that the list “will help you determine which fruits and vegetables have the most pesticide residues and are the most important to buy organic. You can lower your pesticide intake substantially by avoiding the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables and eating the least contaminated produce.” 

Their liberal use of terms like “pesticide intake,” “most contaminated,” and “have the most pesticide residues”  leave consumers to believe that conventionally grown produce is unsafe, that it is “contaminated’ and “dirty.”  Consumers will quickly forget this group’s introductory “eat your fruits and veggies” statement. And, what about lower income consumers that can’t afford to buy organically grown produce?  Where does this messaging leave them? 

What is really important for consumers to know is that the activist group’s statements are wrong!  That’s why in 2010, the Alliance for Food and Farming launched its own initiative to provide science based, truthful information to consumers about pesticide residues and the safety of both organically and conventionally grown fruits and vegetables.  Our focus is to correct misleading information, provide clarity and eliminate fear as a barrier to consumption of produce.   The Alliance has compiled scientific reports, nutritional information, statements by farmers to help consumers better understand this often complicated issue.  In 2012, we’ll be adding even more information that shows the safety of produce, the quality of the science we cite as well as quantify the dangers of activist group’s messaging about “dirty” produce.

Finally, we’ll ask these groups once again to stop using these unsubstantiated, scientifically invalid “dirty” produce lists.  If they are interested in improving public health and seeing the First Lady’s campaign succeed, they should and they must stop using these fear-based tactics and disparaging the very foods everyone should be consuming more of.  

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