Group pushes back on latest Dirty Dozen report

The Environmental Working Group’s latest Dirty Dozen list unfairly targets apples and needlessly scares consumers about eating fresh fruits and vegetables, according to Marilyn Dolan, executive director of the Alliance for Food & Farming.

For the fourth year, apples topped the list of most pesticide-contaminated produce, EWG reports in its annual Shoppers Guide to Pesticides in Produce.

But Dolan says she’s disappointed that apples are “again being unfairly targeted,” and that reporters should contact “reputable scientists, government agencies and nutritionists for more information before jeopardizing the livelihoods of family farmers and needlessly scaring consumers.”

EWG focuses on the compound DPA that is applied to apples following harvest to prevent them from scalding during cold storage. The compound is monitored as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Data program and has been detected well below tolerance levels, Dolan explains.

“The residues are so low, in fact, that an independent toxicological report finds that a small child could eat 154 servings of apples every day without any impact from any residues that might be present,” she said.

Other fruits and vegetables on the Dirty Dozen list are strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, spinach, sweet Bell peppers, imported nectarines, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, potatoes and imported snap peas.

EWG recommends consumers buy only organic leafy greens — kale and collard greens — and hot peppers, as they were “frequently contaminated with insecticides.”

EWG also released the so-called Clean Fifteen list of conventional produce with the least amount of pesticide residues.

Avocados top that list, with only 1 percent of samples showing any detectable pesticides. Other items on the list include corn, pineapples, cabbage, frozen sweet peas, onions, asparagus, mangos, papayas, kiwi, eggplant, grapefruit, cantaloupe, cauliflower and sweet potatoes, the report said.

“EWG’s Shopper’s Guide helps people find conventional fruits and vegetables with low concentrations of pesticide residues,” said Sonya Lunder, EWG’s senior analyst and principle author of the report. “If a particular item is likely to be high in pesticides, people can go for organic.”

Dolan said the report is based on U.S. Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency studies that make clear the residues do not pose a food- safety concern.

In fact, EWG takes aim at government’s safety standards for conventional pesticides, but those same government agencies regulate organic pesticides using many of the same stringent standards, Dolan noted.

The alliance issued a statement April 29 asking its own questions about the report, such as why EWG does not offer a link to the press release on the USDA data program, why it uses outdated information and why isn’t the report submitted to peer review.

Bryan Silbermann, chief executive officer of the Produce Marketing Association and vice chairman of the alliance, addressed the report in an email to PMA members April 30. PMA funding “helps the industry counter misinformation about pesticide residues on fresh produce and science — the same foundation we use to continuously improve food safety,” Silbermann wrote.

The alliance added, “There is no other food group where there is uniform and widespread agreement among health experts that consumption needs to be substantially increased.”

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