Editor’s Note: There was a little cross- contamination in the Food Safety News kitchen last night and we mixed up some FDA comments about a meat study with this story about produce. As a result we took down the story for a couple hours. We regret any confusion we may have caused for FDA, the Environmental Working Group, or especially for readers.
To steal a quote from another movie “Back to the Future,” every organization has it’s “oldies but goodies,” and for the Environmental Working Group it’s the “Dirty Dozen” produce list issued for a 9th year.
Usually when the 20-year old Washington, D.C.-based environmental group issues its annual list, someone from the produce industry might say it’s misleading. This year there might not be as much reaction as in the past.
After 2011’s “Dirty Dozen” was issued, the president of the United Fresh Produce Association said of the EWG that “it is irresponsible to mislead consumers with a sensational publicity stunt disguised as science.” Since it first released its “Dirty Dozen,” critics have pointed out that the health benefits of eating more fruits and vegetables outweigh pesticide risks.
Growers point to the fact that pesticide levels are kept below tolerances established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which are measured in parts-per-million and typically include a 100-fold safety margin.
The rankings this year, from most to least pesticide load, for the EWG “Dirty Dozen” are: apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, spinach, sweet bell peppers, imported nectarines, cucumbers, potatoes, cherry tomatoes, and hot peppers.
EWG’s 2013 “Dirty Dozen” list is based on USDA’s Pesticide Data Program (PDP); its 21st Annual Summary for calendar year 2011 was released in February 2013.
Not as old as the EWG’s Dirty Dozen list is its “Clean Fifteen” list, which for 2013 includes corn, onions, pineapples, avocados, cabbage, frozen sweet peas, papayas, mangoes, asparagus, eggplant, kiwi, grapefruit, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, and mushrooms.
EWG says its rankings are based on the pesticide contamination or–lack thereof–in 48 popular fruits and vegetables based on 28,000 samples tested by FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. EWG’s rankings uses six measures of pesticide hazards, among them, the number of pesticides detected on a crop and the percentage of samples testing positive.
“When given a choice, more consumers are choosing organic fruits and vegetables or using EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to find an easy affordable way to avoid toxic chemicals,” says Sonya Lunder, senior analyst for the environmental group. “They want to eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables without eating too many pesticides. And they want to support local farms and agriculture that is better for the environment.”
The PDP is not used for enforcement of EPA tolerances, but USDA informs FDA if residues detected exceed the required EPA levels or where tolerances don’t yet exist. In 2011, residues exceeded tolerance levels 0.27 percent of the time.
Back to the Future is a 1985 American science fiction, adventure, and comedy film.
The Dirty Dozen is a 1967 American war film released by MGM© Food Safety News