More Evidence that “Dirty Dozen” List is Based on Bad Science

8/2/2011 11:03 AM


Last week the Environmental Working Group issued a release again questioning the validity of the science behind the Alliance for Food and Farming’s Safe Fruits and Veggies initiative.  How interesting that a new study just popped up on our radar screen with additional evidence that it is the EWG’s “science” which should be called into question.

The new University of California study was just published in The Journal of Toxicology (Volume 2011), a peer-reviewed journal specializing in original research articles in areas of toxicology. Authors of the study are Carl Winter, Ph.D., director of the University’s FoodSafe Program and a food toxicologist who specializes in research on the detection of pesticides, and Josh Katz, a fourth-year doctoral student at UC-Davis.

We want to be clear the Alliance for Food and Farming has known Dr. Winter for many years and we admire his work as well as his efforts to communicate about issues concerning pesticide residues and food safety.  However, his study was completely independent of our organization. It was not funded by the Alliance. In fact, we didn’t even know about it until a few weeks ago when Dr. Winter forwarded us his paper titled Dietary Exposure to Pesticide Residues from Commodities Alleged to Contain the Highest Contamination Levels.

The findings of his report are strikingly similar to both the existing studies currently posted on the Safe Fruits and Veggies website including our Expert Panel Report, authored by a team of scientists in nutrition, toxicology and risk assessment, and Perspective on Pesticide Residues in Fruits and Vegetables, by Dr. Robert Krieger, University of California, Riverside.

Much like these two Alliance reports, Dr. Winter concludes after reviewing the methodology used to develop the “Dirty Dozen” list that the EWG “does not appear to follow any established scientific procedures.”  Dr. Winter further concludes that the EWG does not adequately consider “the amount of pesticide residue detected on the various commodities” and that “the consumer exposure to the ten most common pesticides found on the Dirty Dozen commodities are several orders of magnitude below levels required to cause any biological effect.” 

What’s very important to note about Dr. Winter’s report is the fact that it was peered reviewed prior to being accepted for publication in the Journal of Toxicology.  Both of the Alliance for Food and Farming studies are also currently being subjected to peer-review for submission in respected scientific journals.

Despite the fact that the EWG has been publishing its “Dirty Dozen” list for many years with a tremendous amount of media coverage, this report has yet to be peer reviewed or published in a scientific journal that we know of.  The Alliance for Food and Farming has called on the EWG to do so, but to our knowledge, this action has not been taken.  We have to ask ourselves, “Why not?”

For now, we urge media and consumers to take a closer look at the claims being made by EWG and to consider the mounting scientific evidence which finds that the “Dirty Dozen” list is just not good science, nor is it good advice for consumers when making purchasing decisions about produce. 

Like the Alliance for Food and Farming, Dr. Winter notes in his report that he concurs with EWG’s President Kenneth Cook who states, “We recommend that people eat healthy by eating more fruits and vegetables, whether conventional or organic.”

 When it comes to that recommendation --the science is indisputable.   

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