Health issues get an inordinate amount of news coverage these days. Today’s consumers are interested in all things related to health, whether it’s diet, exercise, cooking, or health care. That’s why almost any new study or list gets media attention, regardless of its credibility. One week you’ll see headlines on research showing that caffeine is bad for you. Three months later, a study on the benefits of caffeine makes front-page news. It’s easy to see why consumers can be confused. We have nothing by which to gauge the credibility of one study versus another, and the research isn’t being vetted in newsrooms.
For agriculture, it’s an incredibly frustrating situation. Case in point: The Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) so-called “Dirty Dozen” list that’s issued each year. EWG calls it the “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides.” It lists fruits and vegetables found to be “highest in pesticides.” There’s even a notebook you can take to the grocery store with you, as well as an app for iPhone users. The list has become a great fundraising tool for EWG, but the result is that people are eating less fresh produce at a time when obesity and related health problems in this country are at an all-time high.
Figuring Fact And Fiction
The Alliance sought to put the EWG information — or misinformation — to the test. It asked an expert panel of scientists to look at the basis and methodology behind the “Dirty Dozen” rankings and the scientific evidence that links pesticide residues and health effects. Here are some of facts the experts found:
- The EWG list is not peer-reviewed, nor will the group share its methodology with the public or the scientific community.
- The list is based on exposure only. It fails to provide information on whether the residues detected actually pose a health risk.
- It fails to take into account the strength of the EPA’s pesticide evaluation process in protecting public health, which is more rigorous for pesticide use on food than for any other chemical use.
Kudos to the Alliance for taking on this effort. Now it’s up to us to arm ourselves with information to set the record straight on the safety of fresh fruits and vegetables and the need for Americans to be eating more of them, not less.