Editor’s note: This opinion contribution by the Alliance for Food and Farming is part of a three-piece presentation today by Food Safety News. To read views on the same topic from the Environmental Working Group and an independent nutritionist, please refer to the links at the bottom of this column.

Today the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released their so-called “dirty dozen” list. Before covering or using this “list,” we ask reporters, bloggers and consumers to consider a dozen facts about the “dirty dozen” list and produce safety:

A fact of primary importance: A farmer’s first consumer is his/her own family so food safety is always the priority.

‘Dirty Dozen’ recommendations unsupportable

  • A peer reviewed study found that EWG’s suggested substitution of organic forms of produce for conventional forms did not result in any decrease in risk because residues on conventional produce are so minute, if present at all.
  • EWG’s list may be negatively impacting produce consumption, according to peer reviewed studies. Researchers at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s (IIT) Center for Nutrition Research found that EWG’s “dirty dozen” list messaging results in low income shoppers reporting that they would be less likely to purchase any fruits and vegetables – organic or conventional.
  • USDA’s Report Says the Exact Opposite of EWG Claims. The actual findings of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Pesticide Data Program Report (which EWG says they use to generate their list), shows that 99% of residues found on fruits and vegetables, if present at all, are well below stringent safety levels set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  The Federal Food and Drug Administration sampling shows that 50 percent of those foods had no detectable residues at all.
  • USDA further states: “Pesticide residues pose no risk of concern for infants and children. The results provide consumers confidence that the produce they buy for their families are safe and wholesome.”

Experts agree we should eat more fresh produce every day

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control, only one in 10 Americans eat enough fruits and veggies each day.  Health experts encourage consumers to eat whatever type of produce they prefer, is affordable and accessible. Just eat more.
  • Decades of nutritional studies confirm that increasing consumption of conventional and organic produce improves health and prevent diseases. Not only are conventionally and organically grown fruits and vegetables safe and nutritious, Americans should be consuming more of both to reduce their risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
  • Health experts agree that consumption of fruits and veggies is especially important for pregnant women and those wishing to become pregnant.  A 2018 study in human reproduction found females under 35 undergoing in vitro fertilization had a 65 percent to 68 percent increased chance of success with a stronger adherence to the Mediterranean diet style, which includes eating lots of fruits and veggies.
  • If just half of all Americans increased their consumption of a fruit or vegetable by a single serving each day, 20,000 cancer cases could be prevented every year, according to peer reviewed research.

 Final considerations

  • A University of California toxicology analysis found that a child could eat hundreds to thousands of servings of a fruit or vegetable in a day and still not have any effects from pesticide residues. This shows how minute residues are, if present at all.
  • According to the FDA, washing produce under running tap water can reduce and often eliminate pesticide residues, if they are present at all.
  • Scientists and health experts have urged consumers not to rely on this type of  list to make produce shopping choices since these lists are not science based and often provide contrasting recommendations.

There are numerous health initiatives targeted toward increasing consumption of healthy and safe fruits and veggies to prevent diseases and promote longevity. EWG is a multi-million dollar organization which enables them to use celebrities, celebrity chefs and politicians among their many spokespersons. Imagine what EWG could do if they joined these efforts to improve diets and put their considerable resources toward consistently promoting produce consumption, instead of a list with unsupportable recommendations which may be negatively impacting consumption.

Read, learn, choose but eat more organic and conventional fruits and veggies every day for better health and a longer life.

Please also see: Triple play: EWG posts ‘Dirty Dozen’ list of fresh produce items

Please also see: Triple play: ‘Pro-choice nutritionist’ calls out produce guides

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