As they have done for the last 20 years, the Environmental Working Group issued its annual so-called “dirty dozen” list concerning pesticide residues and produce.
In an attempt to re-spark interest in its list, EWG debuted a new fruit in the number one position this year. In response, the Alliance for Food and Farming issues its annual call for reporters and bloggers to read the actual United States Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Data Program report that EWG states it uses to develop its list before covering the “dirty dozen” release. This USDA report states that the findings show “residues do not pose a safety concern.”
“We aren’t surprised that EWG has a new number one this year. We even predicted it since media coverage of the “dirty dozen” list has fallen dramatically in the last five years and reached an all time low last year,” says Marilyn Dolan, AFF executive director. “We also predicted that the new number one would be a popular fruit that is a favorite among children because this is an EWG prerequisite for a number one placement.”
One of the main reasons for declining coverage of the “dirty dozen” is not only are more reporters and bloggers reading the actual USDA report, but EWG’s “list” has been discredited by the scientific community.
A peer reviewed analysis of the “dirty dozen” list found EWG uses no established scientific procedures to develop the list. This analysis also found that EWG’s recommendation to substitute organic forms of produce for conventional forms does not result in a decrease in risk because residue levels are so minute, if present at all, on conventionally grown fruits and vegetables.
1,508 servings of strawberries in a day
Further an analysis by a toxicologist with the University of California’s Personal Chemical Exposure Program found that a child could literally eat hundreds to thousands of servings of a fruit or vegetable in a day and still not have any effects from pesticide residues. “For strawberries, a child could eat 1,508 servings of strawberries in a day and still not have any effects from pesticide residues which shows how low residues are, if present at all,” Dolan says.
“The concern we have with misleading consumers and the type of misinformation presented by EWG is that it may be undermining efforts by health officials everywhere to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables,” Dolan says. Dolan cites a peer reviewed study conducted by the John Hopkins Center for a Livable Future that found conflicting messaging on food safety and nutrition may be having a detrimental impact on the dietary choices of consumers, especially those with lower incomes.
“The one consistent message that health experts agree upon and that is confirmed with decades of nutrition research is that a diet rich in fruits and veggies whether conventional or organic leads to better health and a longer life,” Dolan says. “This is the message we should all be promoting to consumers.”
One example of that type of research comes from a peer reviewed paper published in the journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology which found that if half of Americans increased their consumption of a fruit and veggie by a single serving per day, 20,000 cancer cases could be prevented annually.
Consumers who want more information on the safety of organic and conventionally grown fruits and vegetables can visit the safefruitsandveggies website. This website was developed by experts in food safety, toxicology, nutrition, risk analysis and farming. The AFF launched the safefruitsandveggies.com website in 2010 to provide science-based information about the safety of organic and conventional produce. “Consumers deserve truthful, credible information about the safety of their foods so they can make the right shopping choices for their families,” Dolan says.
For consumers who may still be concerned about pesticide residues, they should simply wash their fruits and vegetables. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, you can reduce and often eliminate residues, if they are present at all, on fresh fruits and vegetables simply by washing.