Survey: Dirty Dozen list harms consumption - The Packer

Survey: Dirty Dozen list harms consumption

06/19/2012 01:19:00 PM
Tom Karst

(UPDATED COVERAGE, June 21) Armed with new research showing that some consumers are shying away from consuming fresh produce because of pesticide residue concerns, the Alliance Food and Farming called on the Environmental Working Group to cease publication of its Dirty Dozen list unless it can prove otherwise.


Paying no heed to industry concerns, the EWG published the eighth version of its Shoppers Guide to Pesticides on Produce June 19. The guide includes the so-called “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” lists of fruits and vegetables ranked by presence of pesticide residue. This year’s list from EWG put apples, celery and bell peppers as the “worst offenders” of the Dirty Dozen, while onions, sweet corn and pineapples were called “the cleanest conventional produce” of the Clean 15.


Mixed messaging about fruits and vegetables from the EWG have taken a toll, said Marilyn Dolan, executive director of the Watsonville, Calif.-based alliance.


In a press teleconference June 19, Dolan said headlines that same day about the EWG Dirty Dozen list included “Is the produce you eat covered in pesticides?” and “Terrifying toxic fruit list will change the way you eat.”


“None of these reports contain any balance or counter information and neither does the report itself issued by the Environmental Working Group,” she said. “This is something that has to stop.”


On June 19, the Alliance for Food and Farming issued a 20-page report on June 19 titled “Scared Fat: Are consumers being scared away from healthy foods?” The research said the impact of negative messages on food safety issue is an emerging public health threat, lowering the faith of consumers in government regulations and failing to promote fruit and vegetable consumption. Dolan said the lists make consumers feel like they are making an inferior choice when they choose conventional produce.


Christine Bruhn, director of the Center of Consumer Research at the University of California-Davis, said in the teleconference that research has shown choosing organic produce doesn’t reduce risk but it does add cost.


“I am actually really outraged by the (Dirty Dozen) report that was released today - it is pure fear mongering,” Bruhn said. “The appropriate message to give to people to enhance health is to encourage them to eat more fruits and vegetables. In the online survey of 800 adults, nearly one-tenth of low-income consumers polled said they would reduce consumption of fruits and vegetables after hearing negative messaging about pesticide residues. Another 9% said they didn’t know what they should do.

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Chicago  |  June, 19, 2012 at 01:50 PM

FDA once said transfat was good for us. Amonium Hydroxide is okay for consumption... Corn sugar is good for us. We have an obese population. Did it ever dawn on you that your so-called research is flawed?

Garland Jaeger    
Newport Beach, CA  |  June, 19, 2012 at 02:11 PM

I wholeheartedly agree that constantly throwing mixed messages at consumers likely dissuades them from purchasing produce at times. Our industry has been in dire need of a unified message for consumers for a long time. However blaming the EWG's Dirty Dozen list seems to only be putting more fuel to the confusion fire. The Alliance for Food and Farming's report only involved 800 people. That means "troubling finding was that almost 10% of low-income consumers stated that they would reduce consumption of fruits and vegetables after hearing about the Dirty Dozen" could only be 80 people, or less. Since it is only 10% of low-income consumers, it's likely this number is even lower than 80. It seems to me before people go blaming reports like the Dirty Dozen, they need more valid data involving many more consumers.

California  |  June, 19, 2012 at 06:27 PM

‘Dirty Dozen’ fruits and vegetables list updated for 2012 FYI

Fresno  |  June, 20, 2012 at 02:07 PM

FYI - Here are 12 reasons why you should not use the dirty dozen list to make purchasing decisions.

Veronica Kraushaar    
Nogales, AZ  |  June, 25, 2012 at 07:00 PM

Cn the heels of a difficult winter imports season and challenging economy, the notion that ANY fruit or vegetable is "dirty"is like salt on a wound. In fact, it's the ebbing tide that grounds all growers. Dolan and Pivonka are right on point that this is irresponsible behavior on the part of Washington groups that should know better. Fight the good fight, Ladies!

Bergen  |  July, 02, 2012 at 08:28 AM

Information is a good thing. To try to keep people uninformed about their food choices leads to more problems. The farming practices need to be cleaned up.

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