EWG’s Dirty Dozen attracting fewer rave reviews among media outlets

The Environmental Working Group has once again released its annual “Dirty Dozen” list of fruits and vegetables it says contain too much pesticide residue, but the list continues to draw less and less media attention.

As they’ve done for 20 years, the EWG released the list of 12 – along with a list of the “Clean 15” fruits and vegetables, which it says are safe to consume. This year’s Dirty Dozen list contained a new No. 1: strawberries.

But the Alliance for Food and Farming asked reporters to read USDA’s actual Pesticide Data Report that the Environmental Working Group says it uses to develop its list before covering the “dirty dozen” release. The Jan.11 USDA report states the findings show “residues do not pose a safety concern.”

“We aren’t surprised EWG has a new No. 1 this year,” says Marilyn Dolan, executive director of the Alliance for Food and Farming or AFF. “We even predicted it since media coverage of the dirty dozen list has fallen dramatically in the last five years and reached an all-time low in 2015.

“We also predicted that the new No. 1 would be a popular fruit that is a favorite among children because this is an EWG prerequisite for a No. 1 placement.”

Report discredited by scientists

Dolan said one of the main reasons for declining coverage of the “dirty dozen” is not only are more reporters and bloggers reading the actual USDA report, but EWG’s “list” has been discredited by the scientific community.

A peer-reviewed analysis of the list found EWG uses no scientific procedures to develop the list. The analysis also found that EWG’s recommendation to substitute organic forms of produce for conventional forms does not result in a decrease in risk because residue levels are so minute, if present at all, on conventionally grown fruits and vegetables. (See http://bit.ly/1r0eBgN.

Further an analysis by a toxicologist with the University of California’s Personal Chemical Exposure Program found that a child could literally eat hundreds to thousands of servings of a fruit or vegetable in a day and still not have any effects from pesticide residues.

“The concern we have with misleading consumers and the type of misinformation presented by EWG is that it may be undermining efforts by health officials everywhere to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables,” Dolan says.

A study by the John Hopkins Center for a Livable Future that found conflicting messaging on food safety and nutrition may be having a detrimental impact on the dietary choices of consumers, especially those with lower incomes.

Need for more fruits, vegetables

“The one consistent message that health experts agree upon and that is confirmed with decades of nutrition research is that a diet rich in fruits and veggies whether conventional or organic leads to better health and a longer life,” Dolan says. “This is the message we should all be promoting to consumers.”

One example of that type of research comes from a peer reviewed paper published in the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology, which found that if half of Americans increased their consumption of a fruit and veggie by a single serving per day, 20,000 cancer cases could be prevented annually.

For consumers who may still be concerned about pesticide residues, they should simply wash their fruits and vegetables. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, you can reduce and often eliminate residues, if they are present at all, on fresh fruits and vegetables simply by washing.

To learn more about USDA’s Pesticide Data Report, visit http://1.usa.gov/1Rhd7IP.

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