Activist Groups Promote Fear on Consumer Food Choices

Activists Driving Consumers to Organic Food Only—Beyond Consumer Affordability

By Safe Fruits and Veggies

Despite recent and repeated calls by scientists and nutritionists to increase efforts to improve consumption, activist groups have created and promoted new webpages and infographics designed to raise fears among consumers about the safety of the more affordable and accessible fruits and vegetables.

These groups continue to ignore peer-reviewed research, which has shown these tactics don’t just negatively impact consumers’ purchasing decisions regarding conventionally grown produce—consumers’ reluctance also includes purchasing of organic produce as well. In other words, the work of these activists isn’t meeting their goal of driving consumers toward organics and maybe driving them away from produce altogether. How crazy is this?

Let’s review just some of the study findings, which have been released during the time these groups chose to create and promote new fear-based content:

“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. The study concluded: “These new findings support the concept of ‘Food is Medicine.’”

Eating and drinking better, including increasing consumption of fruits and veggies, could prevent one in five deaths around the world. The study concluded: “Our findings show that suboptimal diet is responsible for more deaths than any other risks globally, including tobacco smoking, highlighting the urgent need for improving human diet across nations.”

Low fruit and veggie consumption resulted in an estimated three million deaths from heart disease or stroke. “Our findings indicate the need for population-based efforts to increase fruit and vegetable consumption throughout the world.” Click here to continue reading and to “like” and share this blog post.

FruitsAndVeggies.org Highlights How to Boost Health

FruitsAndVeggies.org Has Been Updated

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

Eating more fruits and vegetables is important. California Ag Today recently spoke with Teresa Thorne executive director of the Alliance for Food and Farming, based in Watsonville She expressed the need to eat more fruits and vegetables and discussed how the website FruitsAndVeggies.org has been updated.

“Whether you choose organic or conventional, choose either with confidence,” Thorne said.

Both organic and conventional fruits and vegetables are safe.

“Experts everywhere agree that we should buy even more,” Thorne said.

Teresa Thorne

“Our website was getting a little bit old and rickety,” she explained.

The website, FruitsAndVeggies.org, was launched back in 2010. New sections on the website help readers understand the necessity of eating more fruits and vegetables.

“These new sections are kind of a fun take on our more traditional nutrition information,” Thorne said.

They also have fun facts such as how eating a lot of strawberries can help whiten teeth. And eating leafy Greens like spinach can lead to healthier hair.

“Things along those lines are just kind of fun little tidbits,” Thorne said.

“It is proven that consuming more foods and vegetables improve your mood, they’re great for you and you can be happier too if you eat more,” Thorne said.

The facts section also clarifies safety and prevention information.

“We also have another section about produce safety,” she said.

This was based on a popular blog that was published approximately one year ago. The information was consolidated it into one quick and easy section for viewers to easily read some interesting facts.

“One being that if we increased our serving by one serving of a fruit and vegetable in a day, 20,000 cancer cases could be prevented annually,” Thorne said.

Americans Need to Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

After Nearly 25 Years, It’s time to Advocate for Consumption

News Release From SafeFruitsAndVeggies.com

There is so much good stuff to say about organic and conventional produce, from studies which clearly show the safety of both to decades of research that illustrate the disease-prevention aspects of these nutrient-dense foods.  Plus, farms and farming companies continue to develop innovative, convenient fruits and vegetables, which are helping to increase consumption.

But while we are making some headway, only one in 10 Americans eat enough produce according to the Centers for Disease Control.  Why?  Because barriers to consumption still exist. One of those barriers is safety fears generated by certain groups who inaccurately disparage the more affordable and accessible forms of produce.

Among the longest and biggest offenders comes from an activist group that annually releases its so-called “dirty dozen” list.  Since 1995, this group’s fear-based ‘marketing against’ tactic disparaging the most popular produce items has been used in an attempt to promote purchasing of organic products.

Look, we completely understand advocating for your members when the information is credible and the science is strong.  The AFF advocates on behalf of organic and conventional farmers of fruits and vegetables and the safety of their products every day.  But when you raise unfounded fears based upon unsupportable science about the only food group health experts universally agree we should eat more of, it is time to revisit your approach.  Especially when peer reviewed research is showing this tactic may result in low income consumers stating they are less likely to purchase any produce—organic or conventional—after learning about the “dirty dozen” list.

Put another way, according to these research findings, this activist group may actually be marketing against their own constituents’ organic products by releasing this list.

To summarize, the “dirty dozen” list is scientifically unsupportable, it may negatively impact consumers’ purchasing decisions, and it’s possibly even detrimental to the very products the list authors are trying to promote.   After almost 25 years, it is time to retire this tactic in favor of more creative “marketing for” strategies that encourage consumption and doesn’t scare consumers.

More Facts About the “Dirty Dozen” List

New So-called “Dirty Dozen” List is Baseless

News Release

To everyone that has read about the “Dirty Dozen” list and is now confused and conflicted about buying the more affordable and accessible fruits and veggies, this blog is for you.  Keep in mind that the “Dirty Dozen” list is designed to make you worry and be fearful.  After all, fear is a very powerful motivator, and the list authors attempt to increase safety fears to motivate and influence consumers’ produce buying decisions.

So here are some facts about the “Dirty Dozen” list that underscore you can consume either conventional or organic produce with confidence.  Both are safe, and the right choice is to eat more every day.

  • Arbitrary Methodology: According to Dr. Carl Winter, toxicologist, University of California, Davis.: “This year’s EWG list is produced using the same arbitrary methodology the EWG has used in the past.  Most importantly, the EWG focuses upon the presence (or absence) of pesticide residues in its methodology and public statements rather than on the actual amounts of pesticides detected, which are extremely low.  To accurately assess consumer risks from pesticides, one needs to consider three major factors – 1) the amount of residue on the foods, 2) the amount of food consumed, and 3) the toxicity of the pesticides.  The methodology used by EWG ignores all three.”
  • Meet Organic Standard: Did you know that the vast majority of conventionally grown produce tested by United States Department of Agriculture could qualify to be labeled “organic,” specific to their residue levels? It’s true. The USDA allows organic produce to have residues that are “less than 5% of EPA tolerances” and the majority of residues found on conventionally grown produce are below this level.  This nicely illustrates how low residues are, if present at all.
  • You Can Eat A Lot of Kale:  If you are concerned about residues on kale, you would have to eat a lot more each day to see any health effects.  In fact, a man would have to eat 26,061 servings in a day.. Click here to continue reading and to like and share this blog post. 

Curious of How Safe is Fresh Produce?

Residue Calculator Helps Public Understand How Safe Food Is

News Release

Recently, we have shared new government residue sampling results from the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR).  These programs consistently show that 99% of the foods sampled had no detectable residues at all or residues found were well below safety levels set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

For those who do not want to review these lengthy government reports, the Alliance for Food and Farming (AFF) created an easy-to-use “residue calculator” on safefruitsandveggies.com, which is based upon the USDA data.  We asked toxicologists with the University of California Personal Chemical Exposure Program to analyze this data.  Their findings: A child could literally eat hundreds to thousands of servings of a fruit or veggie in a day and still not have any health effects from residues.  This analysis shows how very minute residues are, if present at all.

The residue calculator features 19 of the most popular fruits and veggies, and you can click on a man, woman, teenager, or child to see the number of servings one would have to consume.  For example, a child could eat 181 servings or 1,448 strawberries in a day and still not have any effects from residues.  Apples?  A child could eat 340 apples in a day.  Kale?  7,446 servings!

These government reports and the UC toxicological analysis underscore the diligence of fruit and vegetable farmers when it comes to the judicious use of pesticides approved for organic and conventional crops.

“… Growers and farmers are adept at following our comprehensive rules to ensure produce is grown to the highest pesticide standards,” said Brian Leahy, Director of the California Department of Pesticide Regulation.

“Based on the PDP data, consumers can feel confident about eating a diet that is rich in fresh fruits and vegetables,” concludes the USDA report.

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

Children Lacking Fruits and Vegetables

Centers For Disease Control Note Only 1 in 10 Children Are Eating Enough Produce

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

A recent study found that over a quarter of young children do not consume a single serving of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. That news is alarming for Teresa Thorne, executive director of the Alliance for Food and Farming in Watsonville.

The CDC releases consumption data every other year. At any age, only one in 10 people is eating enough fruits and vegetables every day.

“When you see a study like this and it talks about toddlers, children, and their lack of consumption, it is disturbing,” Thorne said.

Fruits and vegetables are not a current trend, but that is why it is important to make sure that there is an abundance of affordable and acceptable fruits and vegetables for parents to provide to their children.

“This is alarming because many children develop their eating habits around the age of two, and these habits will carry on into the rest of their lifetime,” Thorne explained.

In the study, the authors did some simple suggestions for parents in terms of helping parents to incorporate fruits and vegetables in the diet.

“The most important thing I thought was interesting is that it can take up to 10 times for a kid to adjust to a food and say, ‘oh yeah, I like that,’ ” Thorne said. “So be persistent again and keep trying.”

For more information, visit SafeFruitsAndVeggies.com.

SURPRISE: EWG recommends Fruits & Vegetables – Conventional or Organic

EWG to Continue Publishing  “Dirty Dozen” List of Conventional Produce

By Laurie Greene; CalAgToday Editor, Reporter

This week, Marilyn Dolan, the Executive Director of the Alliance For Food and Farming[1] (AFF) sent a letter to Environmental Working Group[2] (EWG) President Ken Cook requesting they discontinue their annual release of the so-called “dirty dozen” list. Scott Faber, EWG’s Vice President of Government Affairs responded online TODAY that “EWG’s top shelf advice is to eat your fruits and veggies. But, as EWG’s research shows, not all veggies are the same, and some have more pesticide residues than others. That’s why we will ignore the call to discontinue publishing our Shopper’s Guide.”Food Scoring Factors

This correspondence comes following EWG’s statement that organic and conventional produce are best foods for consumers and that organization’s new and strongly worded recommendation about the need for increased consumption of all fruits and vegetables – whether they are organically or conventionally grown. The statement accompanied the release of EWG’s Food Scores: Rate Your Plate, an easy-to-use food database and mobile app on October 27, 2014 that rates and shares information for more than 80,000 foods from about 1,500 brands in a simple, searchable, online format. “The new database is the most comprehensive food-rating database available to consumers,” EWG said in a statement. “Its scoring system factors in not only nutrition, but also ingredients of concern, such as food additives, and contaminants. It also estimates the degree to which foods have been processed.”

Each year, EWG publishes Shopper’s Guide To Pesticides In Produce “to help consumers find conventional fruits and vegetables with low concentrations of pesticide residues,” explained Sonya Lunder, EWG’s senior analyst and principle author of the report.  “If a particular item is likely to be high in pesticides, people can go for organic.”

While the annual Shopper’s Guide features a “Clean Fifteen” section of conventional produce with the least amount of pesticide residues, it is famous for its annual “Dirty Dozen” list of the most pesticide-contaminated produce and its Dirty Dozen™ Plus” highlights hot peppers and leafy greens – kale and collard greens – often tainted with unusually hazardous pesticides. The Alliance for Food and Fiber has worked hard to debunk the dirty dozen list,” said Dolan, “with good scientific evidence that even though produce may have crop protection product residues on a small percentage of the total volume of produce, the residue is far less than FDA standards.”

Here is the letter from AFF to EWG, in its entirety.

Mr. Cook:AFF

We noted your organization’s acknowledgment in the “Food Scores” database that both conventional and organic fruits and vegetables should be considered best food choices for consumers.  We also saw the Environmental Working Group’s new and very strong statement concerning the need to increase daily produce consumption for most Americans now posted on your website. 

As you are well aware, our organization, the Alliance for Food and Farming (AFF), has repeatedly requested that you discontinue the publication of your annual “dirty dozen” list because it is misleading to consumers, is not peer-reviewed and is not based on real risk.  The conventional and organic fruit and vegetable farmers we represent produce a very safe product that experts around the world agree we should all be eating more of for better health.  In addition, the USDA, FDA and EPA all clearly state that residues do not pose a food safety concern.

For these reasons, along with EWG’s new and strong acknowledgement of the health and safety of conventional produce, the AFF renews its call for your organization to end your annual release of the “dirty dozen” list.

While there is still much information to come with respect to the validity and credibility of your new “Food Scores” report, we are pleased to see that, for produce, this new report supports decades of nutritional studies showing the health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables – regardless of whether they are organic or conventional. We are sure you would agree that it is illogical for your organization to urge consumers to eat more conventional produce while simultaneously mislabeling these safe and healthy foods “dirty,” “toxic laden,” and “contaminated” among other things.

Therefore we ask you to stop unfairly disparaging conventionally grown fruits and vegetables with your annual “dirty dozen” list release.  Instead, please continue on the positive path you’ve established with your new statement urging increased consumption. That is the right message for consumers and also meets your organization’s stated objective to “empower people to live healthier lives.”

We look forward to hearing from you regarding your future intentions for the so-called “dirty dozen” list.

Sincerely,

Marilyn Dolan, Executive Director, Alliance for Food and Farming

 

Here is the Scott Faber, EWG’s Vice President of Government Affairs’s response to AFF TODAY in its entirety:

Food industry lobbyists are none too pleased with EWG’s new scoring system for foods, accusing EWG’s Food Scores of:

         “Misinformation”

EWG

         “Void of scientific rigor”

         “Inaccurate and misleading information”

         “Extreme and scientifically unfounded views”

Seems like we hit a nerve.

Apparently, helping consumers identify those foods with too much fat, sugar and salt  — as well as foods with unregulated food chemicals or too much mercury – is giving Big Food’s hired guns indigestion.

Of course, food manufacturers don’t like scoring systems like NuVal or Guiding Stars, so it’s no surprise they are already attacking Food Scores.

Could it be that so many packaged foods score poorly?

Here’s what we found: far too many packaged foods have too much sugar, salt and fat and many foods contain chemicals or other ingredients of concern.  Overall, 25 percent of the 80,000 products we reviewed received and 8, 9 or 10. (For EWG, less is more: the best foods score a 1, while the worst foods score a 10.)  

Big Food’s lobbyists contend that we relied upon “isolated studies” to include added sugars and some low-calorie sweeteners in our scores. By “isolated studies,” they mean peer-reviewed research by the Institute of Medicine, the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences.

Big Food’s lobbyists also claim that we used “online sources” to address the risks posed by arsenic and other food contaminants. By  “online sources,” they mean the Food and Drug Administration.

In fact, our scoring system is based upon hundreds of studies conducted by leading experts, including those at the World Health Organization. And, unlike industry-funded studies of food chemicals, the studies that served as our references are available for everyone to see.

Big Food’s lobbyists are especially peeved that EWG recognized that organic foods score better than conventional foods.

Well, duh. Unlike so-called “natural” foods peddled by food giants, certified organic foods cannot be produced with toxic pesticides, antibiotics and hormones. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has even stricter rules when it comes to what can go into “flavors.”  Nor can organic food use genetically engineered ingredients, though GE content doesn’t factor into our scoring system.

Even fruit and vegetable lobbyists took time to bash EWG’s new food scoring tool.  Top scores for actual fruits and vegetables weren’t enough for the Alliance for Food and Farming, a trade association that represents conventional produce growers, which accused EWG of making “disparaging, inaccurate safety claims” in our Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. This is the same group that blamed EWG for scaring people away from healthy food and spent $180,000 of your tax dollars erroneously claiming the Shopper’s Guide discourages people from eating their fruits and veggies.

As regular users of the Shopper’s Guide know, EWG’s  top shelf advice is to eat your fruits and veggies. But, as EWG’s research shows, not all veggies are the same, and some have more pesticide residues than others. That’s why we will ignore the call to discontinue publishing our Shopper’s Guide.

It seems that some food and farm lobbyists can’t handle the food truth.

LessIsMore

[1]AFF, a non-profit organization comprised of approximately 50 agriculture associations, commodity groups and individual growers/shippers who represent farms of all sizes and includes conventional and organic production, works to provide a voice for farmers to communicate their commitment to food safety and land stewardship. Through outreach to the media and consumers, the Alliance provides information and scientific analyses on many food safety subjects, including foodborne illness and pesticide use, among others. “The Alliance for Food and Fiber has worked hard to debunk the dirty dozen list with good scientific evidence that even though produce may have crop protection product residues on a small percentage of the total volume of produce, the residue is far less than FDA standards.”

[2]The Environmental Working Group http://www.ewg.org/about-us, a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment, aims to empower people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment by driving consumer choice and civic action with:

  • game-changing investigations, research and debate on toxics and environmental health, food and agriculture, and water and energy
  • a team of scientists, policy experts, lawyers, communication experts and programmers who stand up for public health when government or industry won’t.

Alliance for Food and Farming: EWG Unfairly Targets Apples and Needlessly Scares Consumers

Watsonville, CA — A non-profit group representing farmers of conventional and organic fruits and vegetables is urging caution concerning claims made today by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

According to the Alliance for Food and Farming, the EWG is making an attempt to reinvigorate waning media interest in its upcoming Shoppers Guide to Pesticides in Produce,  by making inflammatory claims about the safety of apples, a favorite fruit of Americans and, in particular, children.

“EWG is once again scaring consumers about an extremely safe and healthy product that parents should be feeding their children more of for good health,” said Marilyn Dolan, Executive Director of the Alliance for Food and Farming.  “The Alliance is disappointed apples are once again being unfairly targeted by an activist group, which is distorting the facts.  We are urging reporters to use caution and that they contact reputable scientists, government agencies and nutritionists for more information before jeopardizing the livelihoods of family farmers and needlessly scaring consumers.”

The Alliance notes the EWG claims concern a compound, known as DPA, applied to apples following harvest to prevent them scalding during cold storage.  Monitoring of this compound is regularly conducted as part of the United States Department of Agriculture Pesticide Data Program (PDP) and it has been found to be well below tolerance levels. More than 60 countries and the World Health Organization have found this compound to be safe when used according to stringent regulations governing all uses of pesticides by U.S. farmers.

Dr. Carl Winter, a toxicologist with the University of California, Davis, states that DPA residues specifically have been shown to be 208 times lower than the US. Environmental Protection Agency’s reference dose.

It should be noted, however, that fresh apples were not included in this year’s PDP report, although they have been tested through this program many times before.  Data from this government report is used by EWG to develop its so-called dirty dozen list, but they may be using old data to make these most recent claims about apples.

“The United States Department of Food and Agriculture and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have stated residues do not pose a food safety concern,” said Dolan. “Residues of DPA, or any other pesticide, that may be found on apples are consistently extremely low according to decades of monitoring by government agencies.   The residues are so low, in fact, that an independent toxicological report finds that a small child could eat 154 servings of apples every day without any impact from any residues that might be present.”

The Alliance for Food and Farming has developed a website working with experts in toxicology, nutrition, risk assessment and farming where people can learn more about the regulations in place to ensure the safety of fruits and vegetables at www.safefruitsandveggies.com.

Dolan urged consumers to use its pesticide residue calculator to learn more about residues on their favorite fruits and vegetables and she emphasized that health experts around the world agree, and even the EWG has stated, that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables far outweighs any risks from residues that may be present.

She also emphasizes that decades of research backs up the clear health benefits associated with eating conventionally grown fruits and vegetables.  A series of reports on these health benefits can be found on the Safe Fruits and Veggies website.

The Alliance for Food and Farming has been preparing for the annual release of the EWG’s Dirty Dozen list, which is scheduled for release next week. The Alliance has been successful in recent years in shedding more light on the topic of pesticide residues by giving consumers and media more information about the safety of conventional and organic fruits and vegetables. As a result of this work, consumers now have a science-based resource for information, unlike the EWG Shoppers Guide, which is not based on peer-reviewed science.