March 22, 2019

Kale Latest Crop Targeted on EWG’s Dirty Dozen List

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) named kale as one of the most pesticide-contaminated vegetables in their recently-released “Dirty Dozen” list. This list, which is released annually, is designed to make consumers fearful of fresh produce and misleads the public about pesticide residues.

The “Dirty Dozen” list has been discredited by scientists repeatedly over the years, and peer reviewed studies show that EWG’s message potentially discourages consumption of healthy and safe organic and conventional fruits and vegetables.

As reported this week by the Alliance for Food and Farming (AFF), here are some facts about the list that underscore why both conventional and organic produce should be consumed with confidence:

  • Arbitrary Methodology: According to Dr. Carl Winter, toxicologist, University of California, Davis, “This year’s EWG list is produced using the same arbitrary methodology the EWG has used in the past. Most importantly, the EWG focuses upon the presence (or absence) of pesticide residues in its methodology and public statements rather than on the actual amounts of pesticides detected, which are extremely low. To accurately assess consumer risks from pesticides, one needs to consider three major factors – 1) the amount of residue on the foods, 2) the amount of food consumed, and 3) the toxicity of the pesticides. The methodology used by EWG ignores all three.”
  • Meet Organic Standard: Did you know that the vast majority of conventionally grown produce tested by United States Department of Agriculture could qualify to be labeled “organic,” specific to their residue levels? It’s true. The USDA allows organic produce to have residues that are “less than 5% of EPA tolerances” and the majority of residues found on conventionally grown produce are below this level. This nicely illustrates how low residues are, if present at all.
  • You Can Eat A Lot of Kale: If you are concerned about residues on kale you would have to eat a lot more each day to see any health effects. In fact, a man would have to eat 26,061 servings in a day, a woman 18,615 servings, a teenager 14,892 servings and a child 7,746 servings in a day and they still would not have any health effects from residues. This is according to an analysis by toxicologists with the University of California’s Personal Chemical Exposure Program. 

As part of an ongoing commitment to disseminate correct facts about fresh produce safety, Western Growers worked closely with AFF to produce a video featuring the popular residue calculator section of The video is available on Western Growers’ Facebook page and below.