Conflicting "Shoppers Guides" Create More Confusion

Conflicting "Shoppers Guides" Create More Confusion

3/27/2015 1:22 PM

Within a month of each other, an environmental group and consumer advocacy group released two different produce “shoppers guides.”  While both “shoppers guides” were supposedly based upon pesticide residue sampling results from the USDA Pesticide Data Program, they are in direct conflict with each other and feature different items on their “buy/don’t buy” lists creating even more consumer confusion. 

A recent study from the John Hopkins Center for A Livable Future showed that conflicting information about food safety and nutrition may be having a detrimental impact on the dietary choices of consumers, especially those with lower incomes. Now we can add conflicting and competing “shoppers guides” to that mix.  Just think through scenarios a consumer would go through if they actually tried to follow these “shoppers guides.”

Let’s imagine arriving at the produce aisle with both “shoppers guides” in hand.  You head to one produce display with the intent to purchase, but the first "guide" you check says you shouldn’t buy this item if it is conventionally grown unless the product originates from Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico or Costa Rica. You track down the produce manager to ask about the country of origin.  You learn that the product wasn’t grown in any of the “approved” countries.  You then double-check the other “shoppers guide” where you see the product is listed on the “Clean 15” and this guide says you can buy the conventionally grown version.

Confused, you leave that display without putting anything in your cart and move on to pick up your kids’ favorite fruit.   You are happy to see that the first "guide" says you can buy the conventionally grown version if it is from the U.S. and it is.  But, before putting the fruit in the cart, you check the second "guide" which says this item is on the “dirty dozen” list which states you should only buy organic versions.  So now what? 

As you are walking out of the produce aisle, a friend tells you the environmental group that authored the “dirty dozen” list recently labeled the same fruits and veggies they called “dirty” as “best foods” for consumers and strongly recommended increased daily consumption. So now you search for the store aisle where you can get something for your sudden headache.

What makes these scenarios even more frustrating is that decades of peer reviewed nutrition studies show the best advice for consumers is also the simplest: Eat more organic and conventional produce for better health and a longer life.   The science also shows you could literally eat hundreds to thousands of servings of a conventional fruit or veggie in a day and still not see any effects from pesticide residues. That's how truly minute residue levels are, if present at all.

So why do these groups continue to put out “guides” and “lists” that refer to healthy and safe fruits and veggies as “dirty,” “toxic” and “high risk.”  Why do these groups continue to create confusion and misperceived safety fears which can only undermine public health efforts to increase fruit and veggie consumption? 

The researchers with the John Hopkins Center concluded that: “those who want to improve food production techniques and those who want to improve nutrition cooperate to create consistent messaging about healthy eating” for the benefit of consumers.

We agree and this is why the Alliance for Food and Farming provides science-based, factual information to help consumers make the right shopping choices for themselves and their families.  Because we also believe that the best “shoppers guides” and “lists” are the ones consumers write for themselves.  Those are the only “lists” needed.

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


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