The Impact of Increasingly Negative Messaging On Public Health

The Impact of Increasingly Negative Messaging On Public Health

5/9/2012 1:22 PM


On Wednesday, the Huffington Post ran another editorial from the Environmental Working Group.  The language in the piece illustrates EWG’s escalating use of  messaging intended to scare consumers away from healthy and safe produce.  Among the most egregious examples was this statement: 

“This…grew out of one overarching conclusion embraced by scientists, physicians, policy makers, parents, and the public interest community: Pesticides used in the cultivation of fruits and vegetables can cause serious and lasting harm to young children.”  Alex Formuzis, Environmental Working Group.

Let’s address the inaccuracy of the statement first.  The complete data set of scientific studies proves that the “overarching conclusion” actually embraced by scientists, physicians, and moms  is that adults and children who consume more fruits and veggies are healthier and live longer.  These studies were conducted using conventionally grown produce. 

But it is the second half of this statement that is most concerning and dangerous from a public health standpoint.  EWG is telling parents that feeding their children fruits and vegetables can cause them “serious and lasting harm.”  Really?  This is insupportable, it is undermining to public health efforts to improve diets, and it is scaring parents who are trying to do the right thing by feeding their kids fruits and vegetables.

At the Alliance, we have spent considerable time analyzing EWG’s messaging and its impacts on consumers.  The results are concerning and should be concerning to public health advocates everywhere.  In our effort to be an information resource, the Alliance will be providing these findings to the public soon.  

In the meantime, at the Alliance for Food and Farming, our advice to consumers remains clear.  We will continue to encourage consumers to learn more about the safety of both conventional and organic produce.  We will also continue to encourage consumers to choose to eat either conventional or organic fruits and vegetables, while emphasizing they should eat more.  And, we will do our best to provide consumers with the knowledge they need to make informed shopping choices.

And, one more thing, we would like to ask EWG to clearly explain why they follow their increasingly scary messages with this statement:  “Oh and eat your fruits and vegetables, organic or conventional.  They’re good for you.” 

EWG,  you either agree with the recommendation of health experts everywhere that parents feed their children more conventionally and organically grown produce because both are safe and healthy or you don’t.  Your messaging is contradictory and confusing.  More importantly, it is doing nothing at all to improve public health.

We leave you with this recent example from EWG to illustrate our point.

“They don’t want their customers (eaters) to be informed about any associations between the pesticide growers use and health problems connected with them, such as ADHD, lower IQ, low birth weight, diabetes and cancer, to name just a few…Oh, and eat your fruits and veggies, organic or conventional.  They’re good for you.”  EWG.  May 9, 2012.

The Alliance for Food and Farming is a non-profit organization formed in 1989 which represents organic and conventional farmers and farms of all sizes.  Alliance contributors are limited to farmers of fruits and vegetables, companies that sell, market or ship fruits and vegetables or organizations that represent produce farmers.  Our mission is to deliver credible information to consumers about the safety of all fruits and vegetables.  We do not engage in lobbying nor do we accept any money or support from the pesticide industry.  In the interest of transparency, our entire 2011 tax return is posted on this website.



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