EWG continues to release “Dirty Dozen” produce list despite criticism

EWG continues to release “Dirty Dozen” produce list despite criticism

The Environmental Working Group has released its 2021 "Dirty Dozen" and "Clean 15" lists of fresh produce items despite strong criticism of its validity and negative impacts on health.

The EWG says the lists are a consumer guide to pesticide levels in produce. However, the research is not peer-reviewed, and many experts have said that its methodology is not science-based and that the results can in fact deter people from buying fresh produce.

Strawberries and spinach topped the "Dirty Dozen" list, while avocados and sweet corn came out on top of the "Clean 15".

EWG toxicologist Thomas Galligan said: “Whether organic or conventionally grown, fruits and vegetables are critical components of a healthy diet.

“We urge consumers who are concerned about their pesticide intake to consider, when possible, purchasing organically grown versions of the foods on EWG’s Dirty Dozen, or conventional produce from our Clean Fifteen.”

However, organic produce may be unaffordable or inaccessible to many shoppers.

EWG states that it bases its list on annual reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Data Program.

However, more than 99% of produce samples tested for those reports have residue levels that are compliant with Environmental Protection Agency standards. 

The Alliance for Food and Farming says that the lists are "scientifically unsupportable" and hurt consumers.

Peer reviewed research and a survey of registered dietitians has shown the potential negative impact on fruit and vegetable consumption among consumers caused by the so-called “dirty dozen” list, it said.

Further, the “Dirty Dozen” list has been repeatedly discredited by the scientific community as well as peer reviewed studies and the list authors readily state they do not follow any established risk assessment protocols in the development of this list rendering their claims unsupportable, it added.

“Last year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) faced significant criticism from the nutrition community for inaccurately escalating and perpetuating consumer safety fears about these healthy foods as our world was locking down due to the pandemic,” says Teresa Thorne, Executive Director of the Alliance for Food and Farming (AFF).

“EWG continues to dismiss the needs of consumers and disrespect farmers by choosing to inaccurately disparage the very foods health experts agree we should eat more of every day to improve immune function, prevent diseases and increase lifespan.”

“With only one in 10 Americans eating enough fruits and vegetables each day, we should be promoting consumption to enhance immune function and prevent illness, not discouraging it with tactics like the ‘dirty dozen’ list."

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