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"What do you think about the Dirty Dozen -- should I be buying those?"
That's the MOST COMMON question I get from consumers about organic produce. They all want to know if I think the Dirty Dozen is a good guideline for organic produce.
Confession time: I think the Environmental Working Group's "Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce" is misguided, flippant and dangerous. Time and time again, the produce industry rebuts the EWG's re-analysis of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Pesticide Data Program report. The report finds that more than 99% of produce tested has pesticide residue levels well below the EPA's threshold -- it's safe to eat. It's nutritious to eat. People should eat this produce. People should eat all produce. If you're choosing between produce and not produce -- choose produce.
The EWG, however, massages those numbers and throws out things like:
"Pears, Now With an Extra Helping of Pesticides, Join the Dirty Dozen"
How is this responsible? Do they really believe that eating a conventional pear comes with "an extra helping of pesticides?"
But, regardless of how I feel about the "Dirty Dozen" list, retailers need to know what's on it, because consumers really do use it as a guide to entry into the organics category.
When a consumer, interested in buying organic produce, does an internet search for "what to buy organic," they get pages and pages of materials that reference this list.
They walk in your store, list in hand (or on smart phone) looking for these items.
I've done scavenger hunts in the past, and I think it's time to do one again. Can you find all 12 items in one store? If a consumer can't find that item in organic in their usual store, how likely do you think they are to make an extra trip?
Or they could just cross that item off their list -- and oftentimes that's what happens.
You don't want to lose that sale.
The produce industry doesn't want to lose that consumer.
Offer the option.
You don't have to agree with the EWG's dirty tactics, but you do have to stock your shelves.