New Report Seeks to Reassure Consumers, Calm Unwarranted Safety Fears re: Pesticide
This time of year, food becomes a primary focus of conversation as we turn our thoughts to colder weather, cozy family dinners and the holidays. Food should be a source of fun, healthiness and good flavors – it should not be a source of fear. But, when it comes to fruits and vegetables, some groups actively promote inaccurate messaging designed to evoke fear in an effort to promote one farming method over others.
Study after study and government sampling programs repeatedly confirm the safety of produce. Decades of studies also show the significant health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, including the prevention of diseases and increased lifespan. Yet these groups continue promoting disparaging messaging and have even increased the veracity of their statements in recent promotional efforts.
Even more concerning is this is done in light of peer reviewed research which is showing that when consumers are exposed to inaccurate messaging about “high” residues, they state they are less likely to purchase any produce – organic or conventionally grown. With only one in 10 Americans eating enough produce each day, registered dietitians and nutritionists have a hard enough time working with clients and consumers on overcoming barriers to consumption, now they also have to counter safety fears? Doesn’t seem right.
Now a new report seeks to reassure consumers by describing how information from complex risk assessments can be misinterpreted in news stories and by certain groups. “Consumers should feel confident, rather than uncomfortable, when purchasing fruits and vegetables,” says Dr. Carl K. Winter, Cooperative Extension Food Toxicology Specialist Emeritus at the University of California, Davis, and chair author of the Council of Agriculture Science and Technology publication. Continue reading blog post.
Study: Low Produce Consumption Results in Millions of Cardiovascular Deaths
Over the last two months, the findings of three major peer-reviewed studies have led the lead authors to the exact same conclusion: We must increase our efforts to promote produce consumption for the benefit of public health.
The most recent study published in Science Daily found that one in seven cardiovascular deaths could be attributed to not eating enough fruit, while one in 12 of these deaths could be attributed to not eating enough vegetables. Put another way, low fruit and veggie consumption resulted in an estimated three million deaths from heart disease.
“Fruits and vegetables are a modifiable component of diet that can impact preventable deaths globally,” according to lead author Dr. Victoria Miller, Tufts University, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. “Our findings indicate the need for population-based efforts to increase fruit and vegetable consumption throughout the world.”
Another study recently published found that “prescriptions” for healthy foods could save more than $100 billion in healthcare costs. The healthy foods included fruits and veggies plus seafood, whole grains and plant oils. And the third found that improving eating and drinking habits could prevent one in five deaths around the world. “Eating too few fruits and vegetables and too much sodium accounted for half of all deaths and two-thirds of the years of disability attributable to diet,” according to this study.
While these findings about the nutritional benefits of produce are significant and dramatic, the three studies simply support decades of research which found that a plant-rich diet leads to better health and a longer life.
This is why the Alliance for Food and Farming (AFF) strongly advocates for consumer choice by working to remove misguided safety fears as a barrier to consumption. Click here to continue reading or to “Like” or share this blog post.
“Facts Not Fear” Educates Participants on Vegetable Production
News Release Edited By Patrick Cavanaugh
The Alliance for Food and Farming, in conjunction with Markon Cooperative, hosted its second “Facts Not Fear” Produce Safety Media tour last week in the Salinas Valley.
“Our goal is for … [registered dieticians], health and nutrition writers and bloggers to see firsthand the care and commitment farmers have for producing safe and wholesome foods. We believe we met that goal. But, what we learn from our tour guests continues to be just as valuable,” said Teresa Thorne, Executive Director of the Alliance for Food and Farming, based in Watsonville.
In addition to farm and facility tours, the AFF and Markon facilitated a round table meeting where tour guests were joined by farmers and farming companies, scientists, regulators and chefs for a free-flowing discussion that encompassed food safety, farming practices, food waste, pesticide use, food safety regulations, new technologies, health and nutrition, and consumer outreach.
The RDs, bloggers, and writers attending the tour reported they enjoyed the chance to tour the farms one day and then discuss what they saw with these experts. They also appreciated the opportunity to share their information needs and concerns directly during the round table discussion.
And, what were some of our key takeaways from guests? Consumers want transparent and honest communication regarding food safety and food production practices. The RDs, bloggers, and writers share The Alliance for Food and Farming’s concerns about produce safety misinformation and appreciate and need access to scientists and experts that can assist them when addressing consumer questions and correcting misconceptions.
“And, they were very impressed with the technological advancements they saw in the harvesting and processing of produce,” said Thorne.
“While the importance of seeing the fields and harvest and touring processing facilities cannot be underscored enough, meeting and connecting with the people growing our food, directly sharing concerns with farmers and scientists in a group and one-on-one setting and the expansion of their produce industry network is of equal importance for our guests,” Thorne explained.
“Our sincere thanks to everyone who allowed us to visit their farms, watch the harvest, view their processing facilities as well as joined us for the round table discussion,” Thorne said. “And, our thanks and appreciation to our tour partner, Markon Cooperative, for making this tour possible as well as our tour sponsors Cal-Giant Berry Farms, the California Strawberry Commission and the Produce Marketing Association.”
Thorne also praised the 2017 and 2018 tour alumni.
“We will keep the conversation going and look forward to learning more from the attendees as we all work toward our shared goal of increasing daily consumption of organic and conventional fruits and veggies,” she said.
The host, The Markon Cooperative, supplies the food service industry fresh fruits and vegetables.
Produce Industry Gets Praise for Unified Voice on the Matter
The California Fresh Fruit Association is pleased with Kroger’s recent announcement that produce shippers will not have to comply with its new “Net 90” payment plan.
California Fresh Fruit Association President George Radanovich stated, “We appreciate Kroger’s acknowledgment that the ‘Net 90’ payment plan didn’t work for the produce industry. We stand by our position that Kroger’s original push to implement its plan was wrong and illegal.”
To force suppliers to forfeit their rights under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA), an act created specifically to protect the perishable fresh fruit industry, was unconscionable and should never have been proposed.
Radanovich continued, “We would like to commend the fresh produce industry for coming together as a unified voice for our industry. Today we held the line on an important issue.”
Radanovich concluded, “As I’ve stated before, the fresh produce industry has been a good partner to Kroger; we appreciate that Kroger remembered that partnership and fixed the mess it created.”
Produce Critical to Healthy Lifestyle
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director
Fruits and vegetable are an important part of a balanced and healthy lifestyle. Eating healthy produce is especially important for kids whose minds and bodies are still developing.
Teresa Thorne, the executive director of the Alliance for Food and Farming in Watsonville, recently talked to California Ag Today about a peer-reviewed study that showcased the importance of healthy eating during childhood.
“It’s another study, and it mirrors other peer-reviewed research that shows the health benefits to children of eating more fruits and vegetables,” Thorne said.
“There have been other studies that also have come out and said that increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables, especially among young children, can really increase IQ. This study, which was conducted in Australia with 4,200 kids, found that test scores on standardized academic tests increased markedly from students that ate more fruits and vegetables and ate them every day,” Thorne explained.
Thorne emphasized that it’s very important for people of all ages to eat their fruits and vegetables.
“We know fruits and vegetables have a benefit for all of us, and on overall health, and that does include brain health, including when your kids are young and growing and maturing,” she said. “Giving the brain those nutrient-rich foods that fruits and vegetables really provide is important, and these types of studies just underscore that.”
It’s not just one type of produce that’s healthy. No matter if you choose organic or conventional, the important part is that you eat more fruits and vegetables.
“Organic or conventional, where ever you purchase them, whether you like to shop at your local grocery store or warehouse store or farmer’s market, buy either organic or conventional, but just always choose to eat more,” Thorne said.
“Even the most loyal, say organic shoppers, there’s times you’re eating in a restaurant or what have you, that they may not have that choice for you, but you should know that the choice to order that salad is always the right choice, whether it’s conventional or organic. Both production methods yield very, very safe and healthy foods.”
Leafy Green Marketing Agreement Raises Bar
By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor
The Leafy Green Marketing Agreement took huge steps in the advancement of food safety.
Scott Horsfall, CEO of the California of the Leafy Green Marketing Agreement, said, “In 2007, there had never been government inspectors on the farm on a routine basis related to food safety.”
Many other regulators such as the Department of Public Health would often check in on businesses. However, there had never been a routine food safety oversight program on the farm.
Farmers joined this agreement voluntarily. “All of these companies that have joined, and been in the program since 2007, they do so voluntarily, and they pay the freight,” Horsfall said. This raises the bar for food safety and provides value to the industry.
Farmers, who were wary at first, came back to Horsfall saying, “They sleep better at night knowing that they’ve got this program in place, that the auditors are going to be there.”
The California Leafy Green Marketing Agreement continues to improve. Every year, the numbers are studied to see what areas have a continuing problem.
“We have used that to decide what to create in a training program. We hope that we’re helping the industry to better comply with these standards as we go along too, by offering the training,” Horsfall said.
For more information, visit the California Leafy Green Marketing Agreement web page.
Raley’s Owner Mike Teel On California Farmers
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director
California Ag Today recently had an exclusive conversation with Mike Teel, the owner of the Raley’s Supermarket chain, which has 135 locations throughout California and Nevada. We asked him what he’s looking for in terms of the produce produced by farmers in California.
“We’re looking for fresh, and any new products that could be in development, because that’s what differentiates us from the rest of the competitors,” Teel said.
“You know, there are new products coming on, and while most of them are not in the produce and fresh arena, there are interesting ways to combine and bring fresh produce and different combinations for our consumers. We’re a great chain for that, because we’re not too big, but yet not too small,” Teel explained.
Teel told us that Raley’s being based in California does have an advantage in being close to the farming industry. “It does make it easier for us to get it into the market faster,” he said.
And Teel said that consumers want to know more about the produce they’re buying. “Today’s consumer wants to know where their food comes from, and who’s producing it,” Teel said.
“They want to have somewhat of a relationship, even if it’s just the knowledge of who they are, particularly if they’re a family business, and so we try and highlight that,” he continued. “We have great relationships with our producers.”
Teel added that consumers would like to see an image of the farmer on the package. “I think they want to see that. They want to have a connection with the source of their food, and so any way that we can convey that to our consumer, whether it is with photographs or information at point of sale, or highlighting them in an ad, where it be online or on television. I think it resonates with the consumer.”
How to Increase Fruit and Vegetable Consumption
By Laurie Greene, Editor
In honor of National Eat Your Veggies Day, we spoke with Francene Steinberg, department chair and professor of nutrition at UC Davis, and director of the UC Davis Dietetics Education Program for undergrads. She encouraged the importance of leaning on vegetables for optimum nutrition and health benefits.
“A varied diet of fruits and vegetables, along with grains and some protein sources is extremely valuable to give everybody the best energy for them to grow,” Steinberg said. “It really is so important to get the full spectrum of all the nutrients in these foods, particularly the vegetables.”
“In addition to all the required nutrients,” she explained, “we know the required vitamins and minerals—those that we know about and for which we have the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), the “average daily level of intake sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements of nearly all (97%-98%) healthy people.” (Source: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine)
Continuing, Steinberg said, “There are also quite a few other nutrients and compounds in those foods that are good for us—that have biologic effects. Not only just fibers, but also phytochemicals, phytonutrients, they are really part of what helps to promote overall health. It’s not just the vitamins and minerals in a vitamin pill. You really need to eat the whole fruits and vegetables and grains, and so forth, to get the full effects,” noted Steinberg.
There is a new approach to how much produce people should eat on a daily basis. Steinberg noted the importance of eating the rainbow; fruits and vegetables of every color. Previous nutrition campaigns used to stress the importance of consuming five servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
“Most people don’t even come near to eating the amount of vegetables they need. Rather than focusing on a specific number, an easier goal is just eat more than you currently do, in terms of vegetables. Eat one more serving each day. Try a new vegetable each week. See if you like them,” said Steinberg.
Eat The Rainbow
In particular, Steinberg recommended red beets which are a wonderful vegetable to add to your eating list. “Beets are delicious. These deeply colored fruits and vegetables—whether they’re red, or green, or orange—that really denotes they have more nutrients in them. There are all these colored compounds that are often bioactive in the body. They really are good for you. You can, as you say, eat the rainbow by choosing these brightly colored fruits and vegetables.” noted Steinberg.
By consuming more vegetables, consumers can more avoid many chronic diseases. “I think that certainly most of the chronic diseases we suffer from today stem from obesity, diabetes, heart disease, that sort of thing,” Steinberg commented. “They’re often a combination of overconsumption of overall calories and empty nutrients, and not enough consumption of some of these fruits and vegetables that hold such valuable nutrients for us,” said Steinberg.
“It really is a matter of trying to make your diet as nutrient-rich as possible, and really avoiding those empty calories that seem to provide us lots of extra calories without any added benefit,” she stated. “If folks can cut down on some of the sugary and highly fatty snacks, chips and that sort of thing, and eat a piece of fruit or an extra vegetable serving per day they’re really much better off.”
Steinberg suggested one way to stimulate the desire to eat more vegetables is by making them readily available. “I think sometimes when people buy some of the produce, then they put it away in the refrigerator, it’s not visible. It’s hidden and they go to the cupboard and look and there’s a bag of chips that’s very easy to grab.”
She also recommended ways to make sure produce is not left behind. Consumers can purchase “fruits and vegetables that are already pre-washed and cut up, and put them in a little baggie or bowl on the counter, if they’re not perishable, or just a baggie in the refrigerator. It’s a quick grab and go. You can take it and have it as a quick snack. Things that are appealing to children are small bites that are easily consumed, bright and colorful.”
Steinberg recommended consumers “try to find those fruits and vegetables that are very fresh. Sometimes the ones we find in the grocery stores are not as flavorful as [backyard-grown], from the farmer’s market, or even just knowing which vegetables are in season. At the grocery store, the best things that are in season are usually going to be the freshest and tastiest. ” said Steinberg.
Fresh is not the only way consumers can enjoy the benefits of produce since frozen varieties are easy to come by. “Some of the frozen whole vegetables and fruits are highly nutritious,” said Steinberg. “They’re very affordable and available year round.”
Steinberg also mentioned the availability of low calorie dips such as hummus can easily be found in grocery and convenience stores which encourages more fresh vegetable consumption. In fact, hummus is primarily chickpeas, another great vegetable. “Dipping fresh vegetables in hummus. That’s delicious,” she said.
Morning Star Company Supplies Tomatoes to Large Distributors
By Emily McKay Johnson, Associate Editor
The state of California has an ample supply of tomato processors and growers. Renee Rianda, a representative with Morning Star Company, talked about the Woodland, Calif. packing industry that mainly supplies to large distributors. “Morning Star company is the overall umbrella. Morning Star is a big player.” she said, “We are unique in the fact that we are owned by one person.”
The majority of California tomatoes are used as an ingredient in other brands. Morning Star is a name that is familiar with companies such as Domino’s Pizza and Heinz Ketchup. They are not branded like companies such as Del Monte or Campbell’s, but they are used in prepared foods for grocery stores.
“Where I fit into this whole massive situation is I deal with the growers.” she said about her role with the company, “I use roughly a couple hundred growers which is not quite everybody in the state but most of them.”
The fluctuation in supply and demand for tomatoes can vary from year to year. Rianda said that is why they work with a variety of farms in California, “We have everybody from a small individual grower of everything to larger family farms that do a variety of commodities.”
Though there is not a panel or board of directors, the Morning Star Company base is efficient. “We’re very flat as far as an organization goes.” Rianda said, “Everybody has their expertise in the areas that they are best versed in.”
Rianda likes to keep herself updated at conferences around the state. In turn, she can help growers have a commodity to sell. Using the right products is key to Rianda, “That way everybody can still have ample tomatoes to eat.”
The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) announced that once again, the majority of produce it tested annually had little or no detectable pesticide residues and posed no health risk to the public. 95 percent of all California-grown produce, sampled by DPR in 2013, was in compliance with the allowable limits.
“This is a vivid example that California fresh produce is among the safest in the world, when it comes to pesticide exposure,” said DPR Director Brian R. Leahy. “DPR’s scientifically robust monitoring program is an indication that a strong pesticide regulatory program and dedicated growers can deliver produce that consumers can have confidence in.”
DPR tested 3,483 samples of different fruits and vegetables sold in farmers markets, wholesale and retail outlets, and distribution centers statewide. More than 155 different fruits and vegetables were sampled to reflect the dietary needs of California’s diverse population.
Of all 3,483 samples collected in 2013:
- 43.53 percent of the samples had no pesticide residues detected.
- 51.51 percent of the samples had residues that were within the legal tolerance levels.
- 3.99 percent of the samples had illegal residues of pesticides not approved for use on the commodities tested.
- 0.98 percent of the samples had illegal pesticide residues in excess of established tolerances. A produce item with an illegal residue level does not necessarily indicate a health hazard.
Each piece of fruit or vegetable may legally contain trace amounts of one or more pesticides. The amount and type of pesticide (known as a tolerance), is limited by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. DPR’s Residue Monitoring Program staff carries out random inspections to verify that these limits are not exceeded.
The produce is tested in laboratories using state-of-the-art equipment operated by California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). In 2013, these scientists frequently detected illegal pesticide residues on produce including:
- Cactus Pads from Mexico,
- Ginger from China,
- Snow Peas from Guatemala and
- Spinach from the US
Most of the 2013 illegal pesticide residues were found in produce imported from other countries and contained very low levels (a fraction of a part per million). The majority of the time they did not pose a health risk.
One exception occurred in 2013 when DPR discovered Cactus pads, imported from Mexico, that were tainted with an organophosphate-based pesticide. This had the potential to sicken people. DPR worked with the CA. Dept. of Public Health to issue an alert to consumers in February 2014. DPR also worked diligently to remove the entire product it from store shelves and distribution centers. In addition, DPR asked the US Food and Drug Administration to inspect produce at the borders and points of entry to stop shipments into California.
California has been analyzing produce for pesticide residues since 1926 and has developed the most extensive pesticide residue testing program of its kind in the nation. The 2013 pesticide residue monitoring data and previous years are posted at: http://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/enforce/residue/rsmonmnu.htm