Re-Interpreting Data: Turning Positive Food Safety News Into Something Negative

3/14/2013 12:02 PM


Alliance blogs and a Food Safety News editorial have focused on the recently released results of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Data Program.  We wanted to share the positive report results to help reassure consumers that eating more organic and conventional fruits and veggies is the right choice for their families – both are very safe and should be eaten with confidence. 

However, we know that in the coming weeks certain groups will “re-interpret” and “re-package” the USDA PDP results and somehow turn a positive food safety story into a negative one.  What motivates groups to do this is open for discussion, but this negative “re-interpretation” of USDA’s report into so-called shopping guides and "good produce/bad produce" lists receives media coverage every year. 

However, this manipulation of government data is yet another clear example of how these groups raise food safety fears without facts and unfairly disparage the safety of conventionally grown, more affordable produce. And the result is that these efforts are having a negative impact on consumer choice, they are a disservice to families struggling to put healthy food on the table, and they’re becoming a detriment to public health efforts aimed at raising consumption of fruits and vegetables. 

The Alliance’s goal is to present factual, balanced and science based information to counter this type of food safety misinformation that is prevalent today.  With this goal in mind, we will continue to remind people what the USDA report actually says – “U.S. food does not pose a safety concern based upon pesticide residues.”  We will remind people about the accompanying statement from the Environmental Protection Agency – “The newest data from the PDP program confirm that pesticide residues in food do not pose a safety concern for Americans. EPA remains committed to a rigorous, science-based, and transparent regulatory program for pesticides that continues to protect people’s health and the environment.”

Further, we’ll remind the media and consumers that independent scientists who examined certain groups’  “re-packaged” data found that the methodology they used did not follow any established scientific procedures, that risk was not examined and therefore the resulting shopping lists/guides should not be used by consumers when making purchasing decisions.  (The most recent analysis can be found in the peer-reviewed Journal of Toxicology. )

Finally, we’ll ask consumers and the media to simply read the actual USDA PDP report whenever groups try and spin the positive results into something negative.  After all, why read a questionable “re-interpretation” when you could just read the actual report itself?

Read, learn, choose and eat more organic and conventional fruits and veggies for improved health.

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