The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a US based non-profit organization, works as a watchdog to monitor foods, consumer products and environmental practices. Each year they publish a “Shopper’s Guide” to help consumers identify which conventional fruits and vegetables have the highest and lowest concentrations of pesticides. The EWG’s recommendations have even been endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The AAP suggests that parents use the guide to help them shop for children’s foods that contain lower pesticide residues, after research concluded that organophosphate exposure, at levels common among U.S. children, may contribute to a diagnosis of ADHD.
The EWG guide has gained wide circulation in mainstream media. What has not been reported however is whether or not the guide is even scientifically valid. A study published in the Journal of Toxicology in 2011 examined EWG’s methodology and found the EWG only crudely considers the amount of pesticide residue detected on the various fruits and vegetables. The main concern of the study’s authors was that the EWG recommendations did not appear to follow any established scientific procedures nor did they relate to any health criteria. The EWG recommends that people who eat ‘’a lot’’ of foods on the Dirty Dozen Plus List buy organic produce instead. They do not state however, what amount of food ‘a lot’ is. If people eat conventionally grown kale once a week, are they putting their health at risk or is it just when they eat kale daily?
Overall, the down side of the EWG guide is that it has the potential to scare and discourage people from eating fruits and vegetable if they can’t afford organic produce. In fact even the EWG advise that … “the health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh risks of pesticide exposure.” Choosing organic food is beneficial for a host of environmental reasons, however eating the recommended 5-10 servings of fruits and vegetable a day whether they are organic or not has been shown over and over to be one of the best actions you can take to help prevent a variety of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
Environmental Working Group Executive Summary
Hindawi Publishing Corporation Journal of Toxicology
American Academy of Pediatrics: