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Group says magazine’s guide on produce buying is misleading

WASHINGTON — The popular magazine Consumer Reports released a new shoppers’ guide March 19 that ranks the pesticide residues on 48 fruits and vegetables, but the latest list is misleading to consumers because both organic and conventional produce are safe, according to the Alliance for Food & Farming.

The article, “Eat the Peach, Not the Pesticide: A Shopper’s Guide,” uses the government’s Pesticide Data Program and ranks pesticide exposure from eating 48 conventional fruits and vegetables from 14 countries, recommending consumers should always choose organic but in many cases conventionally grown produce can be low risk. It also places each produce-country combination into one of five risk categories — from very low to very high.

The guide lists 10 fruits and vegetables in the organic-only buying list, and identifies 23 others that are OK to buy conventional, including bananas, cherries, oranges, broccoli, lettuce and onions. It also includes a handy checklist that directs consumers to make decisions on produce based on the country where it is grown.

At the core of the report is the magazine’s argument that there is no legal limit on the number of pesticides found on food and that many commodities are found with more than one type of pesticide residue.

“I find it interesting the story says 89 percent of Americans are concerned with pesticide residues. This type of article is why,” said Teresa Thorne of the alliance. “It’s another shoppers’ guide that’s not helpful to consumers.”

People should eat more organic or conventional produce because both are safe and grown under strict government regulations, Thorne said, adding that decades of studies point to the health benefits of a diet rich in organic or conventional produce, and consumers worried about residues should make sure they wash their produce first.

The latest guide comes as the fresh produce industry is pushing federal policies to encourage more school-aged children and adults to eat fruits and vegetables.

“Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is important to a healthy diet,” Urvashi Rangan, executive director of Consumer Reports’ Food Safety & Sustainability Center, said in a press statement. But she urges consumers to eat organic or if they can’t afford it to pick one of the “low-risk” conventional varieties.