CERRITOS, Calif. — If it seems like the Environmental Working Group’s infamous “Dirty Dozen” list hasn’t been getting as much media play as it used to, thank the Alliance for Food and Farming.
For the past 15 years, Washington, D.C.-based EWG has listed the 15 fruits and vegetables with the highest levels of pesticide residues along with a list of the “Clean 15” items with the lowest levels in its “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce.”
The organization sparked a media frenzy as it encouraged consumers to avoid conventional fruits and vegetables on the Dirty Dozen list, eat only organic versions or stick to the Clean 15 list.
The alliance found the list to be problematic, executive director Marilyn Dolan told members of the La Mirada, Calif.-based Fresh Produce & Floral Council at a June 19 luncheon.
The Watsonville, Calif.-based nonprofit alliance asked five independent scientists to analyze the data and determine whether pesticide levels posed a threat to humans.
“The answer was a resounding no,” Dolan said.
In 2010, the alliance responded to EWG with its own press conference and, by continuing to spread factual information about pesticide levels via channels like safefruitandveggies.com, has been able to dispel much of the fear and confusion the EWG report sparked every year, she said.
Media mentions of the Dirty Dozen plummeted from a high of 5,027 in 2011 to 1,093 in 2013, Dolan said.
In addition, the Environmental Working Group has a statement on its website: “The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure.”
Matt McInerney, executive vice president of Newport Beach, Calif.-based Western Growers and chairman of the board of the alliance, told FPFC members that the alliance is a “unifying voice” and “trusted partner” for communication strategies for food safety.
The alliance already is gearing up for what likely will be its next challenge: genetically modified organisms, Dolan said.
The organization will develop a message and formulate a media plan. But Dolan said she’s not yet sure what that message will be.