A Few Minutes of Review Should Lead to Numerous Questions for EWG

4/21/2016 11:10 AM

While overall media and blogger coverage of the so-called “Dirty Dozen” list is a fraction of what it once was, we are still surprised by the stories that feature the Environmental Working Group’s messaging only without any balancing information at all.  

At the Alliance for Food and Farming, we have tried to make finding produce safety and pesticide residue information easy with one-stop shopping at safefruitsandveggies.com where government reports and peer reviewed studies are posted.  We have even condensed some of these studies down so they are quick and easy to reference.  You can literally get the “other side of the story” by spending just a few minutes perusing the research section of our website.

But, what puzzles us more is that even a quick review of EWG’s website should raise questions about the credibility of the “Dirty Dozen” list and make one tilt their head in doubt.  Just a few examples:

Did you know the majority of residue sampling data EWG attributes to the naming of a “new number one” is seven years old.  Yes, seven years old.  From EWG’s website:  “The facts about strawberries and pesticides come from USDA’s Pesticide Data Program.  In 2014, USDA scientists tested 176 batches of strawberries – about 85 percent grown in the U.S., with the rest from Mexico. When we added the 2014 test data to results from tests of 703 batches in 2009, strawberries displaced apples at the top of the Dirty Dozen™ list.” EWG has also admitted to including 12-year-old data to exaggerate their results so that the most popular fruits and veggies stay on their “list.”  Again, there is a reason this “list” has been repeatedly discredited by scientists.

And about that USDA Pesticide Data Program EWG cites in their statement above and continuously in its “Dirty Dozen” report, why doesn’t EWG include any direct links to that government report?  Another head-scratcher for sure.  But its true - EWG never ever provides links to the government report they say their “list” is based upon.  We have asked EWG “why” and blogged about this “lack of linkage” but we have never received an answer.  We are fairly sure of the reason though – the USDA states that the sampling data report findings show “residues do not pose a food safety concern” which is in direct contrast to EWG’s statements.

EWG admits their “list” is not risk based:  “The EWG's Shopper's Guide™ is not built on a complex assessment of pesticide risks.”  This EWG statement alone has resulted in many science and health writers deciding that this “list” is no longer worth covering. 

But here is our favorite – In its Food Scores report, EWG actually calls the conventionally grown produce on its “Dirty Dozen” list “best foods” and urges consumers to eat more everyday for better health.  So one day they are “dirty” and “toxic” and should be avoided and the next they are “best foods” and we should all be eating more.  What? 

With this “list” being repeatedly discredited by scientists, EWG readily admitting to combining old data with new data, a peer reviewed analysis showing that EWG follows no established scientific procedures for developing their “list,”  EWG admitting that their list is not “risk based,” “EWG calling the produce items on their list “best foods” and decades of nutritional studies showing increased consumption of conventionally grown produce improves overall health leads to an even bigger question:  Why would cover the “Dirty Dozen” list at all?

Read, learn, choose but eat more organic and conventionally grown produce for better health and a longer life. 

(Notice all the links in this blog post?) 


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