Since 1995, an activist group has released a so-called “dirty dozen” produce list. However, peer reviewed studies show this list’s recommendations are not scientifically supportable while other studies show it may negatively impact consumers since it discourages purchasing of any produce – organic or conventional.
“There are many ways to promote organic produce without resorting to disparaging the more accessible forms of fruits and veggies that the science has repeatedly shown are safe,” says Teresa Thorne, Executive Director of the Alliance for Food and Farming (AFF), which represents organic and conventional farmers of fruits and vegetables. “For example, the AFF has awebpage at safefruitsandveggies.com with lots of positive information for consumers about organics,” she adds.
“It is time to stop calling non-organic forms of healthy fruits and veggies ‘dirty’ and perpetuating unfounded safety fears that may negatively impact consumers’ purchasing of both organic and conventional produce,” Thorne says.
Some key studies about produce safety and nutrition include:
- A study specifically examined the risk/benefit of consuming a diet rich in conventionally grown produce and pesticide residue exposure. That study determined that if half of all Americans increased their consumption of a fruit and vegetable by a single serving each day,20,000 cancer cases could be prevented each year. The study authors concluded that the overwhelming difference between benefit and risk estimates provides confidence that consumers should not be concerned about cancer risks from consuming conventionally grown fruits and vegetables.
- Peer reviewed research has shown that the author’s “dirty dozen” list recommendation to substitute organic forms of produce for conventional forms did not result in a decrease in consumer risk, because residues are so low on conventionally grown produce, if present at all.
- The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Pesticide Data Program (PDP) and the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) residue sampling program both found that more than 99% of the produce sampled had residues far below Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) safety levels, if present at all. The USDA stated in their report summary: “Based on the PDP data, consumers can feel confident about eating a diet that is rich in fresh fruits and vegetables.”
- An analysis conducted by toxicologists with the University of California’s Personal Chemical Exposure Program found a child could eat hundreds to thousands of servings of a fruit or vegetable in a day and still not have any health effects from residues. For kale, a woman could eat 18,615 servings in a day and a child could consume 7,446 servings.
Thorne adds that there are decades of nutritional studies largely conducted using conventionally grown produce which conclude that a diet rich in fruits and veggies prevents diseases, improves health and increases lifespan.
“Since only one in 10 Americans eat enough fruits and vegetables each day, it is important to promote consumption and support public health efforts to encourage healthier diets instead of creating unnecessary fears about eating non-organic fruits and vegetables, which are wholesome, safe and more affordable,” Thorne says.
For consumers who may still be concerned about residues, the FDA sayswashing your produce under running tap water often removes or eliminates any residues on organic and conventionally grown produce that may be present.
To learn more about the safety of all fruits and vegetables visit safefruitsandveggies.com or our Facebook and Twitter pages.
The Alliance for Food and Farming (AFF) is a non-profit organization formed in 1989 which represents organic and conventional farmers. 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 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.
A gift from the Alliance for Food and Farming to the Illinois Institute of Technology, Center for Nutrition Research helped fund the research published in the peer review journal, Nutrition Today. However, the AFF was uninvolved in any facet of the study nor were we made aware of the study findings until after the paper was peer reviewed and accepted by the journal.