SOURCE: The Alliance for Food and Farming

February 25, 2015 14:28 ET

Alliance for Food and Farming: You Can Ignore the "Dirty Dozen" List

List Authors Say Conventionally Grown Produce Are "Best Foods"

WATSONVILLE, CA--(Marketwired - February 25, 2015) - Today, an annual report titled the "dirty dozen" was released concerning pesticide residues and produce. However, the group releasing this report, recently called conventionally grown fruits and veggies "best" foods for consumers and strongly urged increased consumption of these healthy foods. 

"This group continually issues confusing and conflicting information targeted toward consumers," says Marilyn Dolan, Executive Director of the Alliance for Food and Farming. "One day they are calling safe and healthy produce 'dirty' and `toxic laden' and the next they are stating they are 'best' foods. This simply isn't helpful and studies are beginning to show this type of conflicting information may be having a negative effect on consumers."

Recently, a new peer reviewed study conducted by the John Hopkins Center for a Livable Future found that conflicting messaging on food safety and nutrition may be having a detrimental impact on the dietary choices of consumers, especially those with lower incomes. Researchers involved in the study recommended that "those who want to improve food production techniques and those who want to improve nutrition cooperate to create consistent messaging about healthy eating" for the benefit of consumers.

The so-called "dirty dozen" list has also been largely discredited by the scientific community, Dolan says. "Before using or promoting this list or covering today's list release, we ask concerned consumers and the media to review some of the peer reviewed studies and government reports that can provide a scientific perspective about pesticide residues," she says. These include:

  1. USDA Pesticide Data Program report released in December. The United States Department of Agriculture/Environmental Protection Agency/Food and Drug Administration conclusion: "residues do not pose a food safety concern."
  1. Journal of Toxicology Peer reviewed paper which examined the methodology used to develop this 'dirty dozen' list. Among the paper's conclusions: No established scientific procedures were followed in the development of the list and the recommended substitutions of organic for conventional forms of produce did not reduce risk.
  1. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health Peer reviewed study showed that people who ate seven or more servings of produce per day reduced their risk of premature death by 42%. Consuming that many servings reduced the risk of death from cancer by 25% and heart disease by 31%. 
  1. Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology Peer reviewed paper which found that if Americans increased their consumption of fruits and vegetables by a single serving, over 20,000 cancer cases could be prevented annually. This study was conducted assuming all servings were of conventionally grown fruits and vegetables.

For those who may not want to read the entire USDA report, Dolan recommends reviewing the consumer Q&As that summarize the objective of the government sampling program as well as the results. "Since the 'dirty dozen' list authors state they base their findings on this government report, it is important that people see what it really says. It's actually very positive news for consumers," Dolan says. 

Consumers who want more information on the safety of organic and conventionally grown fruits and vegetables can also visit the website. This website was developed by experts in food safety, toxicology, nutrition, risk analysis and farming. The site features a popular calculator which consumers can use to see how many fruits or vegetables they could eat in a day and still not see any effects from residues that may be present. The site was also recently expanded to include a new section which outlines the stringent laws and regulations governing the use of organic and conventional pesticides.

For consumers who may still be concerned about pesticide residues, they should simply wash their fruits and vegetables. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, you can reduce and often eliminate residues if they are present at all on fresh fruits and vegetables simply by washing.

The AFF launched the website in 2010 to provide science-based information about the safety of organic and conventional produce. "Consumers deserve truthful, credible information about the safety of their foods so they can make the right shopping choices for their families," Dolan says. "We believe that facts, not fear, should guide those choices."

The AFF's key message for consumers? "Our message mirrors that of health experts everywhere. Eat more organic and conventional fruits and veggies every day for better health and a longer life."

The Alliance for Food and Farming is a non-profit organization formed in 1989 which represents organic and conventional farmers and farms of all sizes. Alliance contributors are limited to farmers of fruits and vegetables, companies that sell, market or ship fruits and vegetables or organizations that represent produce farmers. Our mission is to deliver credible information to consumers about the safety of fruits and vegetables. The Alliance does not engage in any lobbying activities, nor do we accept any money or support from the pesticide industry.

Contact Information

  • Contact:
    Marilyn Dolan or Teresa Thorne
    (831) 786-1666