In the wake of a food scoring database by the Environmental Working Group that gives high marks to conventional and organic fresh produce, the Alliance for Food and Farming is again asking the activist group to end the annual Dirty Dozen list of the most pesticide-laden produce commodities.
“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,” Marilyn Dolan, executive director of the Alliance for Food and Farming, said in a an Oct. 29 letter to EWG president Ken Cook.
“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,” Dolan said in the letter.
Dolan said the alliance has repeatedly requested that the EWG discontinue its annual Dirty Dozen list because it is misleading, is not peer-reviewed and is not based on real risk.
The Environmental Working Group said in an e-mail that it will continue to publish the Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, aka the Dirty Dozen list.
Sonya Lunder, EWG senior analyst, said the new database rankings are consistent with the Dirty Dozen/Clean 15 lists. She said that nutrition ratings account for 70% of the overall food product score, but she said EWG includes the group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen ratings in the ingredient concern methodology.
EWG rates 80,000 foods in its database on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the best. Lunder said the food database shows the best score for organic produce is 1.0 and the best score for conventional produce is 1.3.
According to the EWG, “Food Scores: Rate Your Plate” is a comprehensive food database with the scoring system taking into account nutrition, food additives, and contaminants and estimates the degree of processing in food.
“EWG has long told the public that the nutritional benefits of conventional fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure,” Lunder said in the e-mail. “The fact that conventionally grown fruits and vegetables are better than Doritos should not be news to the food industry or the public,” she said.
Dolan praised the EWG’s new statement promoting increased consumption of organic and conventional produce. EWG website now states: “Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. Eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables — especially dark green, red and orange varieties, as well as beans and peas — is an essential part of a healthy diet.”
Teresa Thorne, spokeswoman for the alliance, said the strong statement by EWG in support of fruit and vegetable consumption was a big part of the reason for sending the request to end the Dirty Dozen list.
The high “food scores” ranking and the negative language around the Dirty Dozen list don’t coexist well together, Thorne said. “I don’t think you can put one list/database out saying one thing and then a few months later put something out that is the complete and total opposite,” she said. “EWG needs to pick a side.”
Thorne said the science clearly backs the message to eat more fruits and vegetables, whether organic or conventional, for better health and longer life.