Media coverage of the Environmental Working Group’s annual “Dirty Dozen” list of produce to avoid because of pesticide residues has become much more balanced over the last five years, according to a study from the Alliance for Food and Farming.
 
In 2010, the alliance launched its Safe Fruits and Veggies initiative with a goal of providing consumers with science-based information on the safety of both conventional and organic fruits and vegetables.
 
“Science can prevail and effectively counter rhetoric and inaccuracies generated and perpetuated by activist groups,” Matt McInerney, chair of the alliance management board and executive vice president of Western Growers, said in a news release. “By providing consumers with peer reviewed science, analyses by university scientists and experts plus access to credible spokespersons, inaccuracies and common misperceptions about produce safety and pesticide residues were countered and corrected by the (alliance) informational campaign.” 
 
Media coverage reflecting only the Environmental Working Group perspective has declined from 99.8% in the years from 1995 to 2009 to 48% in 2013, according to a report summary. Balanced media coverage of the Dirty Dozen list grew from less than 1% from 1995 to 2009 to 23% in 2013, according to the report. Stories about the list reflecting only the Alliance perspective represented 29% of all 2013 coverage.
 
The alliance board took action to counter the Dirty Dozen coverage in 2010 because it had become one of the main sources of misinformation about produce safety, according to the release.
 
“We knew that science was on our side regarding concerns about residues, we just needed to communicate in a concise and more easily understood manner, which began with the creation of the safefruitsandveggies.com website,” Marilyn Dolan, aliance executive director, said in the release. “To date, no group has questioned any of the information found at safefruitsandveggies.com, which underscores the quality of the science.”
 
In addition to more balanced media coverage, the study found an overall decline in total mainstream media coverage of the annual Environmental Working Group release.
 
“In the last five years we’ve made great strides to take back our brand and stop the disparagement of safe and healthy fruits and vegetables, but there is much more work to do,” Bryan Silbermann, alliance board vice-chair and CEO of the Produce Marketing Association, said in the release. “The success of the (alliance’s) Safe Fruits and Veggies initiative shows how effective we can be when we work together toward a common goal. But we must keep pushing so that consumers have truthful, credible information about the safety of their produce so they can make the right food choices for themselves and their families.”