Only a lull in the fight against Dirty Dozen - The Packer

Only a lull in the fight against Dirty Dozen

05/03/2013 12:53:00 PM
Chuck Robinson

Chuck Robinson, Media WatchGive me a cause and effect and I am as ready as anyone to hook them up in a correlation.

I had a good cup of coffee this morning, and it turned out to be sunny. I did my work well yesterday and so no meteorite slammed into the Earth. I was glad to do it.

I have learned that my brain is somehow wired to make these connections, and over the years a cynical voice has been installed in my consciousness to tell me, “Uh huh. Right.”

So one side of my brain is quite willing to agree with comments in the April 29 issue of The Packer by Marilyn Dolan, executive director of the Watsonville, Calif.-based Alliance for Food and Farming, about her group’s effect on media coverage of the nefarious Dirty Dozen list promoted by the Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Working Group.

There has been a lot less media coverage of the list, which was released for the ninth year on April 22.

The annual list again says apples are the most pesticide-ridden fruit or vegetable in the produce department.

I love the alliance’s response via its website,, where you can click on a picture of a man, woman, teen or child to see how many servings of any of the Dirty Dozen items could be consumed in a day without any effect — even if the item had the highest pesticide residue recorded for it by the USDA.

A child could eat 154 servings of apples safely. A woman could eat 529 servings.

A man could eat 2,640 servings of strawberries in a day without surpassing USDA pesticide guidelines.

Boo-yah! Score! Why hasn’t that caught on more among all the talking heads and bloggers? Well, levelheadedness has a tough time counteracting hysteria. Sometimes logic just ticks off the person in full rant.

So the cynical voice in my head warns me we should be careful. Maybe the various media find the story a little stale this year.

Also, maybe everyone was distracted this year with the events of a week previous to the list’s release that thundered into our collective consciousness — the Boston Marathon bombings.

Besides that, Monsanto is a perennial piñata for chemical use bashers, and I have heard quite a bit concerning problems with using Round-Up herbicide. I think that issue is parked in the virtual space occupied last year by the Dirty Dozen.

All of this is to say the war has not been won, and the 24-year-old Alliance for Food and Farming still has its work cut out for it.

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Ray Gilmer    
Washington, DC  |  May, 03, 2013 at 01:59 PM

Chuck, don't forget that for the past two years, USDA has defended their own data in the agency's Pesticide Data Report, on which the Dirty Dozen is supposedly based. Never before had USDA actually underscored the safety of sampled produce in issuing the PDP. What's more, USDA included comments from FDA and EPA that further supported the overall positive findings. When reporters see that USDA is helping consumers to accurately interpret the PDP data, it blasts the credibility and news value of the Dirty Dozen.

Lenexa, Kan.  |  May, 03, 2013 at 02:15 PM

That is an uplifiting thought to carry us into the weekend, Ray. Thanks. Logic and rationality will prevail. Maybe we can leave the next battle for Monday morning, then.

Marilyn F Dolan    
Watsonville  |  May, 06, 2013 at 03:07 PM

Thanks for mentioning the work done by the Alliance for Food and Farming and our member organizations to help provide more information to consumers and the media about the safety of fruits and vegetables. You are correct -- of course the war is not over. But we have made tremendous strides. The Alliance is conducting an in-depth media analysis on the Dirty Dozen report to learn more about the impact of our efforts, which we will share soon. We know that media coverage has been decreasing since the launch of the Safe Fruits and Veggies initiative for a variety of reasons. We cannot stress enough the importance of getting credible, science-based information out to a wider audience. This is why we encourage members of the produce industry to pass information along to their own customers, link to our website, "like" our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter, etc. This is how we will win the war. For more information, please visit our website at

PA  |  May, 09, 2013 at 06:38 AM

Chuck You stated "A man could eat 2,640 servings of strawberries in a day without surpassing USDA pesticide guidelines." FYI USDA does not set pesticide guidelines, EPA Office of Pesticide Programs sets food tolerances, FDA enforces the tolerances and USDA monitors and provides data to EPA and FDA. Lisa

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