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Industry fires off letter refuting safety warnings by Dr. Oz

by Joan Murphy | September 28, 2010
Mehmet Oz may host a popular television and radio show, but he didn't win over friends in the produce industry when he warned the public to fear pesticide residues in certain fresh fruits and vegetables.

After a Sept. 24 segment of the "Dr. Oz Show" listed the "dirtiest produce items," four fruit and vegetable trade associations fired off a Sept. 28 letter refuting the charges.

The host of the Emmy-award winning show drew the ire from Produce Marketing Association President and Chief Executive Officer Bryan Silbermann, who e-mailed members to say that the industry groups wanted to correct what "we considered to be especially egregious misinformation" about fresh produce safety.

"You stated that consuming fruits or vegetables with pesticide residues would cause a person's heart to race, eyes to dilate and asthma-like symptoms," PMA, along with the Alliance for Food & Farming, United Fresh Produce Association and Western Growers Association, said in a two-page letter to Dr. Oz. "Those statements are medically and scientifically invalid."

It continued, "The three federal government agencies that regulate the use of pesticides (EPA, USDA and FDA) are clear that 98 percent of the produce tested have either no detectable residues or the residues found were well below the legal levels set by the government. And, our government's standards governing the use of pesticides are the most stringent in the world -- yes, even more stringent than the European system."

The groups also criticized the television host for referring to the Environmental Working Group's "Dirty Dozen" list in which the environmental group says that consumers should avoid consuming conventionally grown varieties of the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables.

A team of scientists examined the “Dirty Dozen” list and found it misleading to consumers, a detriment to public health because it discourages consumption, and lacks scientific evidence that the pesticide levels found pose any risk, the groups said.

They also refuted charges by Dr. Oz that fruits and vegetables are coming from "industrialized, corporate" agriculture. "The vast majority of the fruits and vegetables Americans consume are produced by family-owned-and- operated farms," the letter said.