Alliance effort muffles Dirty Dozen’s drumbeat

06/22/2012 09:24:00 AM
Tom Karst

The idea is that consumers have been listening to the soundtrack of media coverage of the Dirty Dozen list for years. Some of those consumers can afford to buy organic and they will. For those who cannot afford organic, how good do they feel about conventional apples? After all, EWG placed apples as the “worst offender” of the Dirty Dozen.

What about the feel-good superfruit blueberries? Conventional blueberries tested positive for 42 pesticide residues, EWG said.

Thanks for the buzz kill, Ken Cook.

Alex Formuzis, vice president of media relations for the EWG, said if consumers pick Doritos over fruits and vegetables, it is not because of pesticides. In fact, he said he was “100% certain” that any decline in fresh produce consumption is not attributable to the EWG shoppers guide.

Don’t bet the DC mortgage on that 100% certainty, Alex.

Christine Bruhn, consumer food marketing specialist in the Food Science and Technology department of the University of California-Davis, will have none of it.

She was particularly passionate during the alliance press teleconference about the Dirty Dozen, stating that one of her university colleagues had looked at the Dirty Dozen list and found the level of pesticides on those commodities was 1 million times lower than the amount fed to an laboratory animal every day of its life with no ill effect.

That same analysis found that substituting organic for conventional produce made no appreciable difference in levels of risk.

Bruhn said there is a general assumption by the public that organic products are more nutritious, better for you and more environmentally sustainable.

“There’s no data to support those views,” she said.

Dolan was asked by one reporter during the teleconference if she feels she is waging a losing battle in response to the blizzard of headlines about the Dirty Dozen. She said it is tough for the group to get its message heard.

Perhaps less so now than years ago.

Success should be counted in small measures, such as the balanced NPR story titled “Why you shouldn’t panic about pesticide in produce.”

What’s the biggest drag on consumer demand for fresh fruits and vegetables?

Check out the poll results to see what your cohorts think. In my view, the communication efforts of the Alliance for Food and Farming are an important counterpunch to the Dirty Dozen.

Even more elegant and fierce communication and promotion of fresh produce is necessary to move demand to higher ground.

tkarst@thepacker.com

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