Fear Has No Place in the Produce Department

12/15/2015 1:31 PM

Earlier this month, the Alliance for Food and Farming (AFF) had the opportunity to speak at the Consumer Media Luncheon which took place as part of the New York Produce Show organized each year by the publishers of Produce Business.

Our topic dealt with the impact of fear-based marketing commonly used by activist groups to promote organically-grown foods over conventional. To be sure, we are in midst of a public health crisis with skyrocketing obesity rates and diet-related diseases on the rise.  The solution evoked by just about every health expert in the world is to EAT MORE FRUITS AND VEGETABLES!  Yet, despite the best efforts of groups like the Produce for Better Health Foundation and their More Matters campaign as well as initiatives like Let’s Move, Eat Brighter and FNV – produce consumption remains flat and, in fact, has actually declined in recent years. 

As part of our presentation, we were careful to point out that the Alliance for Food and Farming exists to provide consumers with information on the safety of both conventional and organic produce. AFF membership is made up of farmers who grow both and www.safefruitsandveggies.com is filled with facts and science-based information that encourages consumers to choose either conventional or organic produce with confidence.

Sadly, some groups are much more one-sided.  Activists often promote messages and images on social media that refer to the more accessible and affordable produce items as “toxic,” “contaminated” and “pesticide laden.”  The Alliance for Food and Farming adamantly opposes this kind of fear-based marketing.  Why?  Because the information presented is just not true.

Based on over 20 years of monitoring data, the United States Department of Agriculture tells us that pesticide residues are not a food safety concern.  According to their findings, about half of the produce sold in the U.S. contains no detectable pesticide residues and over 99 percent of the samples found with residues have such small amounts that a child could eat hundreds or thousands of servings a day without any impact at all from residues if they are present at all. 

The Alliance for Food and Farming believes there’s a better way to talk about the benefits of organic fruits and vegetables that doesn’t raise fear and concern about conventionally-grown produce. Fear based marketing doesn’t belong in the produce department. In fact, the produce department is where health experts everywhere encourage people to buy and eat more. It’s all good for us!

Fortunately, the audience listening to our presentation in New York largely agreed. We were happy to discover that most of the reporters who attended this media luncheon had a good understanding of nutrition and many were registered dietitians.  Time and time again when we encounter this kind of audience, we see overwhelming support for our message about the health and safety of all produce.  This is why we are encouraged by the growing trend by today’s retail grocery stores to employ registered dietitians who assist in communicating with store customers. It’s also why we love talking with reporters who understand nutrition and want to provide consumers with facts they can use to make healthy food choices for themselves and their families.

When Produce Business publisher Jim Prevor introduced the Alliance at this event, he called us “truth tellers.” And it was quickly apparent that we were speaking to a room full of truth tellers.  Our hope is that the information made available by the AFF provides a way for reporters, retail dietitians and farmers to talk to consumers about the health and safety of all fruits and vegetables and that, ultimately, people come to recognize the produce department is a place that should never be feared.             

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