Enjoy Your Fruits and Vegetables With Confidence
Apr 20, 2017
By John Rigolizzo, Jr.: Berlin, New Jersey
The Environmental Working Group made a marketing mistake when it picked the name for its annual list of least-favorite foods: “The Dirty Dozen.” At least for me, that title brings to mind a great American war movie about a suicide mission against the Nazis.
Just as we’re supposed to cheer for the film’s 12 rough-and-ready GIs—a cast that includes Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson, and even football legend Jim Brown—I’m a fan of the food that the EWG seeks to condemn.
Here’s a complete list, in order, of the dozen kinds of food that the EWG urges folks to avoid: strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, peaches, pears, cherries, grapes, celery, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, and potatoes.
I’ve grown many of these fruits and vegetables on my farm in New Jersey—and this list makes no sense. These are some of the most delicious and nutritious foods available.
The problem, it seems to me, isn’t that Americans eat too much of the food on this list, but rather that we don’t eat enough of it.
How are we supposed to tackle problems like obesity and malnutrition when we’re also warned away from strawberries and spinach?
The EWG, of course, doesn’t exactly say that the food itself is bad for you. That would be truly absurd. Instead, it makes the slightly different claim that farmers who grow these fruits and vegetables rely too much on pesticides.
This ridiculous allegation requires the EWG to peddle a pair of myths.
The first myth is that people can enjoy these fruits and vegetables without the benefit of crop-protection products.
Have you ever bitten into an apple and discovered half a worm? This is a common event in cartoons but it rarely happens in real life, at least among people who buy apples that come from commercial farms.
That’s because farmers use bug-killing sprays to keep their fruit healthy and whole. When you take a bite from an apple today, you can admire the bright and juicy part beneath the skin. I remember that when my father and grandfather bit into an apple—before the advent of effective crop-protection technologies—they’d study it not in admiration but in apprehension, wondering if they could take a second bite. They were searching for wormholes.
This leads to the second myth, which is that the sprays that prevent bugs and fungus from spoiling our food are unsafe.
What utter nonsense. Sprays must comply with tough standards established by the Environmental Protection Agency. Many states, including my own, enforce their own standards that are even stricter that those of the federal government.
Moreover, we collaborate with scientists: For years, I’ve worked with extension agents from Rutgers University who study crop-protection strategies. One of the things I’ve learned from them is that we’d have to increase the toxicity of our sprays…