Raising Residue Fears Hurts Consumers, Including Those Who Purchase Organic

Raising Residue Fears Hurts Consumers, Including Those Who Purchase Organic

1/15/2014 9:40 AM

Various media reports last week in Canada focused on the fact that 45.8 percent of organic fruit and vegetable samples tested by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency were positive for some trace levels of pesticide residues.  These findings resulted in surprise and raised concerns among organic consumers despite the Canadian government’s assurances that these organic products are very safe.  Some examples of consumer statements:

“It might sway me and make me think twice about trusting the word organic.”

“I would hope that the products are without pesticides. That is what I would be looking for."

“That would encourage me to get to know local farmers more and more, get to know the community-supported agriculture in each neighbourhood.

In additional food safety news, the University of Florida released a new survey concerning consumer attitudes about food related issues.  Among the findings, 94% of consumers in that state said they were concerned about residues.  Ninety-Four percent!

At the Alliance for Food and Farming, we have been concerned for awhile that the continued and constant misinformation about pesticide residues by activist groups and marketers could inadvertently “move” to organically grown produce as consumers learn more about those growing systems. 

The facts are that organic production does include the use of pesticides as a last resort to control pests and diseases.  The facts are that the approval and use of organic pesticides are heavily regulated.  The facts are that any residues found on organic and conventional produce are at very minute levels and, according to both Canadian and U.S. government agencies, do not pose a food safety concern.  The facts are that both organic and conventional produce are very safe and can be eaten with confidence.  The facts are that health experts agree that we should all be eating more fruits and veggies every day for better health.

It is timely that this month the AFF will launch a new, comprehensive webpage which focuses on U.S. regulatory systems in place to ensure the safe use of pesticides by organic fruit and vegetable farmers.  This new site is unique in that it encompasses all the organic pesticide regulations in one place so that consumers, the media and others can easily access this information.  This new section advances the AFF’s goal of providing science based, factual information and will reassure consumers about the safety of all fruits and vegetables.

The AFF also asks activist groups who repeatedly perpetuate fear-based messaging about residues to again rethink this strategy. This misleading and inaccurate messaging is not only detrimental to consumers but to organic and conventional farmers who work hard every day to deliver healthy products to families.  The goal should be that 94% of consumers say they are eating more fruits and veggies than ever, not that they are hesitant or scared to consume them. 


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