EWG Publishes Dirty Dozen List of Produce

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recently issued a press release advising that it has published the “EWG 2016 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce,” which is based on pesticide residue data published by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Juices are not mentioned in this year’s report.

As part of this evaluation, the EWG published the “2016 Dirty Dozen” list of fruits and vegetables, available here, “that singles out produce with the highest pesticide loads.” Strawberries, apples, nectarines, peaches, grapes and cherries are on the “Dirty Dozen” list. The report notes these produce tested positive for a number of different pesticide residues and had higher concentrations of pesticides compared to other produce. According to the EWG, greater than 98 percent of strawberry, peach, nectarine and apple samples tested positive for at least one pesticide residue. Some strawberry samples tested positive for 17 different pesticides.

The EWG also published a list of “Clean Fifteen” produce, which represents the produce with relatively few pesticides and low pesticide concentrations. Pineapple, mango, papaya, kiwi, honeydew melon, grapefruit and cantaloupe are on the list, available here. The report noted 89 percent of pineapples, 81 percent of papayas, 78 percent of mangos, 73 percent of kiwi and 62 percent of cantaloupes did not test positive for pesticide residues. In addition, none of the fruit samples tested positive for more than 4 types of pesticides.

In response to the report, the Alliance for Food and Farming (AFF), an organization representing farmers and farms, issued a press release expressing concern about the EWG report. The Alliance noted that USDA’s 2014 pesticide data show “residues do not pose a safety concern.” The press release states an analysis by a toxicologist with the University of California’s Personal Chemical Exposure Program found that a child could eat hundreds to thousands of servings of a fruit or vegetable in a day and still not have any effects from pesticide residues.

EU Concerned about Dimethoate Health Risk

According to an article recently published by Reuters, available here, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has indicated that the insecticide dimethoate could be harmful to humans and cited concerns about toxicity for human health. The article notes France is calling for a ban of the substance in Europe. France has raised concern about dimethoate’s use on cherries. Dimethoate is approved for use on crops in the U.S including cherry, melon, blueberry, lemon, pear and tangerines (40 Code of Federal Regulations Part 180.204).

ISAAA Report on the Status of the Biotechnology Crops

On April 13, 2016, the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) issued a press release, announcing publication of its annual report on biotechnology crops, “20th Anniversary of the Global Commercialization of Biotech Crops (1996-2015) and Biotech Crop Highlights in 2015.” Below are key findings highlighted in the press release, Executive Summary and Top Ten Facts.

  • 2015 marked the 20th anniversary (1996-2015) of the commercialization of biotech crops (also known as genetically modified (GM)).
  • Biotech hectarage increased from 1.7 million hectares in 1996 to 179.7 million hectares in 2015. Global hectarage of biotech crops peaked at 181.5 million in 2014.
  • In 2015, the top five countries planting biotech crops were the United States (70.9 million hectares), Brazil (44.2 million hectares), Argentina (24.5 million hectares), India (11.6 million hectares) and Canada (11.0 million hectares).
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first GM animal for commercial food production and human consumption – a faster growing GM salmon, which is expected to enter the food chain in the US before 2018.
  • Two varieties of Arctic® apples, with less bruising and less browning when sliced were approved for planting in the USA and Canada, with 6 hectares planted in the USA in 2015.
  • A global total of 17 to 18 million farmers, ~90% of which were small farmers, planted biotech crops in 28 countries in 2015
  • The major biotech crops include soybean, maize, cotton, and canola.
  • In 2015, the global market value of biotech crops was US $15.3 billion, (down marginally from US$15.7 billion in 2014);

The complete report is available for purchase from ISAAA here.

FDA to Consider Safety of Food Packaging Materials

According to an article posted on the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) website, the FDA recently agreed to consider withdrawing approval of 30 ortho-phthalates (food additives) from use in food packaging and food handling equipment. The article notes the substances are used as plasticizers, binders, coating agents, defoamers, gasket closures and slimicide agents to process and packaged food. The food additives are allowed to be used in plastics, paper, paperboard and cellophane that come in contact with food. The EDF and other groups (Natural Resources Defense Council, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Center for Environmental Health, Center for Food Safety, Clean Water Action, Consumer Federation of America, Earthjustice, Learning Disabilities Association of America, and Improving Kid’s Environment) submitted a food additive petition to the FDA raising concern about the adverse health effects of these ortho-phthalates in foods.

In a related matter, a study was recently published in the journal Environmental Health Perspective, which evaluated exposure to phthalates (di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) and diisononyl phthalate (DiNP)) and Bisphenol-A levels and intake from restaurant foods according to a press release issued by George Washington University. The study, which was funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, evaluated data on 8877 participants from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES 2003-2010). The study found people who ate fast food had higher phthalate levels than non-consumers. According to the study, grain and meat were the most significant contributors to phthalate exposure. The study did not find an association between fast food intake and BPA.

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