U.S.: Alliance for Food and Farming attacks publication of ‘Dirty Dozen’ produce list

March 10 , 2017

The Alliance for Food and Farming (AFF) has attacked the Environmental Working Group (EWG) for continuing to release its “Dirty Dozen” list, which is said to show which produce items that have the highest levels of pesticide residues. 

The AFF said the list’s publication came in spite of fruit and vegetable consumption rates remaining low and studies showing consumers were less likely to purchase produce due to concerns over pesticide residues.

“In light of new science and information about how safety fears are impacting low income consumers, it is concerning that EWG still releases a “dirty dozen” list in 2017,” AFF executive director Teresa Thorne said.

“EWG’s list has been discredited by scientists, it is not based upon risk and has now been shown to potentially discourage consumption of healthy and safe organic and conventional fruits and vegetables.

“If EWG truly cares about public health, it will stop referring to popular produce items that kids love as “dirty” and move toward positive, science based information that reassure consumers and promotes consumption.”

EWG included strawberries, apples, cherries, table grapes, nectarines and peaches in its Dirty Dozen list.

Recent peer-reviewed research by the Illinois Institute of Technology’s (IIT) Center for Nutrition Research and published in Nutrition Today found that EWG’s messaging which describes certain fruits and vegetables as having “higher” pesticide residues results in low income shoppers reporting they would be less likely to purchase any fruits and vegetables – organic or non-organic.

The IIT scientists surveyed 510 low income consumers in the Chicago area to learn more about what terms and information about fruits and vegetables may influence their shopping intentions. 

“We were surprised to see how informational content that named specific fruits and vegetables as having the highest pesticide residues increased the percentage of shoppers who said they would be unlikely to purchase any type of fruits and vegetables,” says Dr. Britt Burton-Freeman, Associate Professor of Food Science and Nutrition, IIT’s Center for Nutrition Research.

“The concern is that depending on the structure of the communication about pesticides and fruits and vegetables this could turn people away from wanting to purchase any fresh produce.”

Thorne added that in addition to the recent research, the other important reason that the ADD remained frustrated is that the Centers for Disease Control reports that only 1 in 10 Americans eat enough fruits and vegetables each day.

“This CDC statistic is especially concerning since decades of nutritional research shows that increasing consumption of conventional and organic produce can improve health and prevent diseases, like cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity.”

The AFF also highlighted that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has stated that “overall, pesticide residues found on foods tested are at levels below the tolerances set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and do not pose risk to consumers’ health.”

“Based on the PDP data and on EPA’s assessment, the small amount of pesticides found in a few of the samples present no health risk. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has concluded that pesticide residues pose no risk of concern for infants and children,” it said.

The EWG also published a ‘Clean Fifteen’ list of produce items which includes sweet corn, avocados, pineapples, cabbage, onions, papayas, and mangoes. 

Photo: www.shutterstock.com


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  1. Mareya Ibrahim says:

    I agree that the report from the EWG could be harmful towards consumption of fresh produce, but my biggest question is, why are we not encouraging consumers to properly was their fruit and vegetables? Washing them has been shown to remove up to 99.9% of the residue. And when I say wash I mean, not a casual rinse with water but using a product that is lab proven and can actually do the work. These are available on the market. I’m just really not clear why this critical piece of knowledge always gets omitted but the fact is consumers can do a lot to reduce the risk of pesticide consumption with a simple step. Mareya Ibrahim, http://www.eatcleaner.com

    1. Gustavo says:

      It´s a very interesting idea Mareya. And maybe producers and supermarkets should apply this procedures prior to put products for sale.

      1. mareya says:

        Thank you Gustavo! I agree!! So much we can do but I feel everyone has their agenda a to why they won’t recommend certain solutions. The knowledge is out there!