Predictability Accompanies USDA Report Release

1/19/2016 11:34 AM

This month, USDA released the 2014 Pesticide Data Program results accompanied by the conclusion that residues “pose no safety concern.”  This result was no surprise since year after year this program verifies the safety of organic and conventional fruits and veggies.  But, this is also predictable:

  • Media coverage of this “good news” story for consumers was almost non-existent with only produce trade publications and Food Safety News providing articles.
  • TheEnvironmental Working Group (EWG) will manipulate USDA’s data, literally twist good news into bad and create a new so-called “dirty dozen” list which will inaccurately call into question the safety of the more affordable and accessible fruits and vegetables.  Look for this “list” release in the next few weeks.
  • The Alliance for Food and Farming (AFF) along with its produce industry partners will continue to work on behalf of organic and conventional farmers to correct misinformation and counter inaccurate and unscientific statements about produce safety carried by groups, like EWG.

Interestingly, EWG seems to have internal battles within its organization about what to say about produce.  While EWG inaccurately calls popular fruits and veggies  “dirty,” “pesticide-laden,” and “toxic” when it releases its “list,” they call these very same produce items “best foods” in their Food Scores report.  The following statement by EWG accompanies the conventionally grown apples rating in Food Scores:

 Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. Eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables--especially dark green, red and orange varieties, as well as beans and peas--is an essential part of a healthy diet. You can get your 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day for about the cost of a bus ride in most cities.  Fruit and vegetable intake is associated with reduced risk of heart attack, stroke and some types of cancers. Fruits and vegetables are also key sources of potassium and dietary fiber--nutrients that many Americans do not get enough of. Perhaps that's because on average, Americans eat only 42% and 59% of the recommended intake of fruits and vegetables, respectively, making them one of the few foods we should all eat more of.

This is all correct information and scientifically verifiable, especially the statement that produce, in this case apples, are foods we should all eat more of.  Good advice and supported by health experts everywhere. But, then a consumer sees this EWG statement three months later: “Apples, peaches, and nectarines topped EWG's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce Dirty Dozen™ list of the dirtiest, or most pesticide-contaminated, fruits and vegetables, a new analysis of U.S. government data found.”  Sorry, EWG but that isn’t even close to what the USDA report found.  And, talk about presenting confusing and contradictory information.  For the record here’s what USDA says:

“These Pesticide Data Program (PDP) data show that, overall, pesticide residues found on foods tested are at levels below the tolerances established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and pose no safety concern.”

EWG’s has released its “dirty dozen” list for 20-plus years now and it seems they have no plans to retire this gimmick despite a significant and marked downturn in coverage over the last five years since the AFF began challenging its inaccuracies.  But because some media outlets still cover the "list" release and EWG pushes the content directly to consumers, the AFF will continue its efforts to provide credible produce safety information to consumers so that facts, not fear, can help guide their shopping choices. We’ve become predictable too.

Read, learn, choose but eat more conventional and organic fruits and veggies for better health and a longer life.

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