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    The Real Danger of the Dirty Dozen List

    Julia Stewart:
    Hello, this is PMA PR Director Julia Stewart, and welcome back to PMA’s audio blog, “Ask Dr. Bob” with PMA’s Chief Science and Technology Officer Dr. Bob Whitaker. Bob, we’ve got a guest with us today as we welcome Marilyn Dolan, executive director of the Alliance for Food and Farming. Over the years, there’s been continuing media coverage of misleading information about produce pesticide levels. Most recently, what’s being called the “Dirty Dozen Report” inaccurately names specific fruits and vegetables as having unsafe pesticide residues that impact health.

    Bob, can you share some insight on this all too familiar food safety concern?

    Bob:
    Yes, Julia. Unfortunately this issue continues to rear its ugly head despite industry’s past efforts to counter it.  We’re pleased to have Marilyn with us today to share some perspective and reality on this with our listeners.

    Over the years we’ve seen inaccurate claims made by activist groups about unsafe levels of pesticides in produce. These claims threaten consumers’ confidence in the safety or wholesomeness of fresh produce, and PMA believes we must respond aggressively to restore confidence and increase consumption. To date, without sound science at hand, our industry hasn’t been able to effectively contest these scare tactics with facts. Meanwhile, new research indicates that negative attention is taking a toll on consumer confidence in all fresh produce, not just the commodities being singled out in publications like this Dirty Dozen report. Marilyn, welcome…can you tell us more?

    Marilyn:
    Thanks Bob.  This is a critical issue for the industry, evidenced by the fact that more than 90 percent of consumers report that they are “somewhat to very concerned” about pesticide residues on food.  In response, the Alliance for Food and Farming is teaming up with PMA to launch a new campaign this month called “The Real Danger of the Dirty Dozen List”. It will counter these misleading claims and promote the real facts about pesticide residues on our food. At the core of the campaign is a comprehensive review of the Dirty Dozen report by an expert panel of scientists. This review examines the list rankings, methodology, and scientific evidence linking pesticide residues to health effects.

    Julia:
    I’ve been working crisis communications in the produce industry for a number of years now, including on this issue. So I know what a much-needed campaign this is for our industry to finally have. Bob, could you explain more about PMA’s support for it?

    Bob:
    Sure, PMA is supporting this effort as part of our ongoing mission to identify and respond to emerging issues and effectively avoid or minimize their impact on our members’ businesses. We’ve been integrally involved in the development of this campaign from inception, including financially assisting with the campaign’s consumer website. PMA supports this new program, and others like it, that give year-round value to PMA members.

    Julia:
    So, Marilyn, what can we do to set the record straight for consumers?

    Marilyn:
    The Alliance for Food and Farming plans to reach out to consumer media and health professionals, and ultimately drive consumers to a new website with information specifically on the issue of pesticide residues on produce. The website address is www.safefruitsandveggies.com. We want consumers to know it is safe to eat all kinds of produce – conventional and organic—and that the current pesticide review process protects public health. If consumers are still concerned about pesticide residues, they should just rinse it. The campaign also provides proactive tools the industry can use to communicate with consumers about the safety of fruits and vegetables. With less than 2 percent of the population involved in food production, it’s more important than ever for each company to be an advocate for the produce industry by telling your great story to consumers. These tools are available to any Alliance for Food and Farming member on our website at www.foodandfarming.info.

    Bob:
    That’s absolutely right Marilyn! And, the ball’s in our court now. When the expert panel reviewed the Dirty Dozen report, they found that the currently available scientific data does not provide evidence to support the publicized findings. With factual tools in hand, it’s our turn to win consumers back, restoring their confidence in us and the products we market. We need to tell them our story with the same passion and conviction that we show each other when we talk about what we do.

    Julia:
    Thank you, Marilyn and Bob, for helping equip us to get out there and talk about this very important food safety topic.

    Listeners, I urge you to visit www.safefruitsandveggies.com to learn more about the Real Danger of the Dirty Dozen list. Now when you get questions about pesticide residues, you’ll be able to pass this information on and help assure consumers of your commitment to the safety of fresh fruits and vegetables. Thanks and please join us next time.

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