If your kids were looking for reasons not to eat their fruits and vegetables, you better hope they were not watching the popular daytime TV show “Dr. Oz” last Friday.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, a cardiac surgeon from Cleveland, turned his Friday show into a warning about pesticides, labeling apples, spinach and peaches as among the “dirtiest fruits and vegetables.”
The reality TV doctor received a swift response from the produce industry accusing him of being duped by the likes of the Consumer Union and the Environmental Working Group, which maintain “dirty dozen” lists of fruits and vegetables grown with the help of pesticides.
The lists are not “peer-reviewed” and reviewers have found them to be misleading and detrimental to public health because they discourage people from eating more fruits and vegetables when pesticide levels are too low to poise any risk, according to the produce industry.
Those were among the arguments leaders of four top fresh produce groups used in a letter to Oz on Tuesday. The groups protesting the Oz show represent farmers and marketers of both conventional and organic fruits and vegetables from through the U.S.
“You stated that consuming fruits or vegetables with pesticide residues would cause a person’s heart to race eyes to dilate and asthma-like systems,” the association leaders wrote. “Those statements are medically and scientifically invalid.”
Signed by the executive officers of the Alliance for Food and Farming, Produce Marketing Association, United Fresh Produce Association, and Western Growers, the letter said U.S. standards for governing the use of pesticides are the most stringent in the world, even more stringent than those imposed by the European Union.
They said the country’s problem is declining consumption of fruits and vegetables in an era of epic obesity. They said Oz was guilty of spreading false fears about “healthy wholesome fruits and vegetables.”
Oz urged his viewers to buy frozen spinach over the fresh product, and pitched a recipe with white vinegar, baking soda, lemon and water to wash peaches that he said could have as many as 62 pesticides “on their fuzzy delicate skin…”
Oz did say onions, corn, and kiwi fruit were “some of the cleanest produce.”
The “Dr. Oz Show” came to television after the physician proved to be a popular guest on the likes of the Oprah and Larry King shows. His programming is usually aimed at his audience of mostly women. What to do about menstrual cramps and how to pick up anti aging “secrets” at the local Dollar Store were other recent show topics for Oz.