Having written several editorials through the years about the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) absurd annual “Dirty Dozen” list of the 12 fruits and vegetables that purportedly have the greatest pesticide residues, I really thought I was done with the topic.
What more can you say about a group that puts out a list allegedly in the interest of people’s health, when it must know full well the list’s name alone carries the not-too-subliminal message that you’d better eat organic fruits and vegetables — or else.
In fact, the EWG got so much heat from doctors and dietitians when it released the report a couple years ago, it called conventionally grown produce a “best” food for consumers and strongly urged increased consumption of these fruits and vegetables. To which pretty much everyone I know said: “Duh.”
But I thought I’d washed my hands of the issue until three recent events occurred in short order.
First came a shocking bit of insight into how EWG racks up some of its revenue. In late October, I attended the annual meeting of the California Association of Pesticide Control Advisers (CAPCA), where the keynote speaker was Phillip Hayes, who oversees food and farm practice at North Bridge Communications — a Washington, D.C., public relations firm he cofounded.
Hayes is no fan of the EWG either, and he shared how through the outfit’s ratings of various products, it gets a percentage on sales.
For example, EWG annually evaluates sunscreens, rating them on a 1 to 10, best to worst. I clicked on one of the top-rated sunscreens, which I’m sure is a fine product. It must be, as it not only provides UVA/UVB protection, it’s “gluten-free.” (No, I’m not making that last bit up.)
I scrolled down the page and clicked on an Amazon link that would have allowed me to buy the product. What people may not know, said Hayes, is EWG gets a chunk of change when you buy through Amazon. It’s not insignificant either.
He said Amazon gets 8% from every purchase, so if I had purchased the 0.45 ounces of sunscreen for the listed price of $12.32, according to Hayes EWG would have gotten $0.99. Now I hasten to add here that the group is not hiding anything. It says right there on the site “EWG may receive a commission on purchases made through the Amazon link.”
I just think most consumers don’t pay much attention to that. Probably about as many people think about that disclaimer as see the annual “Dirty Dozen” come out and think the EWG is saying conventional fruits and vegetables are a “best” food to consume.
When I got home from CAPCA, I got hit with another of the studies showing how eating fruits and vegetables — however they are grown — is critical to your health. This one, done by the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Center for Nutrition Research, found lower income people felt they’d be less likely to purchase any type of fruit or vegetable when considering the EWG’s statement about the “Dirty Dozen.”
Then came Halloween, and it’s not like I’m some kind of nut who hands out fruit to the trick or treaters. I generously hand out the candy, but I don’t feel as good about it as I used to — too many obese kids. I wonder if anyone at EWG feels that way about lower income folks not opting for fresh fruit and vegetables for their children, or if they’re too busy tallying their “commissions.”