Can We Just Enjoy Spring This Year?

Can We Just Enjoy Spring This Year?

3/21/2016 2:03 PM

The welcoming of spring brings many positives such as better weather, flowers and trees in bloom, an even bigger variety of fruits and veggies to enjoy and more daylight hours for outside activities.  However, for those of us who work to provide credible food safety information to consumers, it also brings a predictable negative event that requires a corrective response – the annual release of the “dirty dozen” list by the Environmental Working Group.

Yes, every spring for the last 20 years EWG puts out this list with its fear-inducing messaging which inaccurately and unfairly calls the more affordable and accessible fruits and veggies “dirty,” “highly contaminated” and “toxic.”  Their goal is to push consumers toward organically grown produce, which is also very safe and healthy but not as affordable or as accessible for many consumers as conventionally grown. 

Why EWG continues with this tired and discredited tactic is anyone’s guess.  But, with the science clearly showing that conventionally grown produce is very safe and with consumption of fruits and veggies stagnating and/or dropping despite the best efforts of health officials, it is time for EWG to retire this list and cease its efforts to scare people away from eating these popular produce items.  

Because in addition to the wealth of science showing the safety of fruits and veggies and concerns about stagnating consumption, there are numerous other reasons EWG should just stop.  Here are a few:

  • A peer reviewed analysis found that EWG follows no established scientific procedures when developing its list.  Further, the analysis showed that residues found on conventional produce are so low, if present at all, that substitution of organic forms for conventional forms on the list did not result in any decrease in risk.
  • EWG themselves state that their “dirty dozen” list is not risk based.
  • EWG gave conventionally grown fruits and veggies a “best foods” rating in its Food Scores report and recommended consumers increase consumption.  So even EWG doesn’t believe their own rhetoric about avoiding these produce items because they are “toxic-laden” and “highly contaminated.”
  • The USDA Pesticide Data Program report that EWG states they “base” their list upon clearly states that the findings show “residues do not pose a safety concern for U.S. foods.”
  • peer reviewed study shows that conflicting messaging on food safety and nutrition may be having a negative impact on consumers, especially those with lower incomes. Among the findings:  Given the potential implications of competing messages about healthy eating, it is important that those who want to improve food production techniques and those who want to improve nutrition cooperate to create consistent messaging about healthy eating.

Fortunately, as more reporters and bloggers review the actual USDA PDP report, learn more about EWG's scientific inadequacies and contradictions, and read peer reviewed studies, coverage of the “dirty dozen” release has declined significantly.  However, the limited coverage it does receive is still undermining to efforts to increase consumption and raising safety fears among some consumers.  Therefore the Alliance for Food and Farming will do what we do every spring – reach out directly to reporters, bloggers and consumers to correct EWG misinformation and provide science-based information so people can make the right shopping choices for themselves and their families. 

Then maybe we can all go back to enjoying spring and thinking about the fun things – here’s some more:  Easter egg hunts, the return of baseball, spring break vacations, the opening of farmers’ markets, gardening... Yes, this is much better than thinking about the tired “dirty dozen” list.

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


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