Recent USDA and FDA reports show both organic and conventional food is safe and that the notorious “Dirty Dozen” list is doing more harm than good for Americans. According to the sampling data, 99 percent of residues on fruits and vegetables, when present at all, are well below safety levels set by the EPA. FDA sampling shows that 50 percent of the foods sampled had no detectable residues at all.
“In light of today’s “Dirty Dozen” list release, both government reports are good news for consumers and show that the “list” author’s contentions about residues and “dirty” produce are unfounded, unsupportable and, in fact, may be harming public health efforts to improve the diets of Americans,” says Teresa Thorne, Executive Director of the Alliance for Food and Farming. Thorne says peer-reviewed research published in Nutrition Today shows that inaccurate statements regarding “high” residues associated with the annual “Dirty Dozen” release resulted in low income consumers stating they would be less likely to purchase any produce — organic or conventionally grown.
“For over two decades the authors of this list have inaccurately disparaged healthy and safe fruits and veggies to the detriment of consumers,” Thorne says. “Since a farmer’s first consumer is his or her own family, providing safe and wholesome food is always their priority. Consumers should be reassured by the farmers’ commitment to food safety and government reports that verify that safety year after year.”
Among the additional USDA/FDA findings:
- Pesticide residues pose no risk of concern for infants and children.
- The results provide consumers confidence that the products they buy for their families are safe and wholesome.
Further, a peer reviewed study found that EWG’s suggested substitution of organic forms of produce for conventional forms did not result in any decrease in risk because residues on conventional produce are so minute, if present at all. The same study states that EWG did not follow any established scientific procedures in developing their list.
There are decades of peer-reviewed nutrition studies which show the benefits of eating a diet rich in fruits and veggies on health, Thorne explains. These studies were largely conducted using conventionally grown produce. Thorne adds that health experts universally agree that a plant rich diet is important for everyone, but especially for children, pregnant women, or those wishing to become pregnant.
“What I tell women routinely is all the data suggests you want to increase your intake (of fruits and vegetables) during pregnancy and for that matter before you even become pregnant to help optimize your chance of having a healthy child,” says Dr. Carl Keen, Professor of Nutrition at the University of California, Davis whose research focuses on the influence of the maternal diet on the risk for pregnancy complications.
For those struggling with infertility, a 2018 study in human reproduction found females under 35 undergoing in vitro fertilization had a 65 to 68 percent increased chance of success with a stronger adherence to the Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes eating lots of fruits and veggies each day.
Further illustrating how low pesticide residues are, if present at all, an analysis by a toxicologist with the University of California’s Personal Chemical Exposure Program found that a child could literally eat hundreds to thousands of servings of a fruit or vegetable in a day and still not have any effects from pesticide residues.
“For strawberries, a child could eat 181 servings or 1,448 strawberries in a day and still not have any effects from pesticide residues,” Thorne says.
For consumers who may still have concerns, they should simply wash their fruits and vegetables. According to the FDA, you can reduce and often eliminate residues, if they are present at all, on fresh fruits and vegetables simply by washing.