A reprint from The Alliance for Food and Farming
There are decades of nutritional studies that clearly show
that consumption of fruits and vegetables improves
health and leads to a longer life – these studies were
largely conducted using conventionally grown produce.
There is an impressive body of work by the government,
plus peer reviewed science, that shows that residues, if
they are present at all, do not pose a food safety concern. Yet certain activist groups continue to perpetuate
misinformation that provokes fear about produce safety
and one even resorts to the extent of calling fruit and
Two new peer reviewed studies have become part of that
scientific body of work that demonstrates the health and
safety of produce. This information should be reassuring
to consumers with concerns about pesticide residues.
The first comes from the University College of London
and showed that people who ate seven or more servings
of produce per day reduced their risk of premature death
by 42%. Consuming that many servings reduced the risk
of death from cancer by 25% and heart disease by 31%.
This research was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health and studied the eating habits
of over 65,000 people from 2001 to 2013. The study also
examined produce consumption of lesser amounts each
day and found that risk of premature death by any cause
is reduced by 14% if you eat one to three servings a day;
29% for three to five servings; and, 36% for five to seven
Another peer reviewed nutrition study published in the
Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology found that if
half of all Americans increased consumption of fruits and
veggies by a single serving a day, 20,000 cancer cases
could be prevented annually.
So while the first study addressed how healthy fruits and
veggies really are, the next study reinforced that both
organic and conventionally grown foods are safe to eat.
A study conducted by Oxford University and published
in the British Journal of Cancer found that there was no
difference in cancer rates of middle aged women who
consumed organic foods compared to women who ate
conventionally grown foods. This research was sponsored by a British cancer research charity. According
to that charity’s health information manager Dr. Claire
“This study adds to the evidence that eating organically grown food doesn’t lower your overall cancer risk.
Scientists have estimated that over 9% of cancer cases in
the UK may be linked to dietary factors, of which almost
5% are linked to not eating enough fruit and vegetables.
So eating a well-balanced diet which is high in fruit and
vegetables – whether conventionally grown or not – can
help reduce cancer risk.”
Note the term “adds to the evidence.” How much
more do we need? It is time to stop the fear mongering and let consumers know the facts about produce
safety. And, those facts support the recommendation
of health experts everywhere – eat more conventionally and organically grown fruits and veggies for better health and a longer life. Both production systems
yield very safe foods and it is always the right choice
to eat more.
Let Facts, Not Fear,
Mexico and US
Sign Food Safety
Officials from the U.S. and Mexico who signed the
food safety statement included (from left) Mike Taylor,
FDA deputy commissioner, Enrique Sánchez Cruz,
executive director of SENASICA, Margaret Ham-
burg, FDA commissioner, and Mikel Arriola Peñalosa,
commissioner of COFEPRIS. Although it is only two
pages, the document signed by Mexico and US officials
is being called a milestone in the pursuit of cooperative
food safety efforts, especially for preventive practices
and verification requirements for fresh produce.
“We know that food safety is more a journey than a
destination, but there are times when we can point to a
major milestone along the road. Today, we reached such a
milestone in our long-standing relationship with Mexico
by signing a statement of intent to establish a new produce
safety partnership,” Mike Taylor, deputy director of the
Food and Drug Administration wrote in his blog.
“This collaboration is a priority for public health,” said
federal commissioner of COFEPRIS Mikel Arriola
Peñalosa. “The partnership will focus on implementing
preventive practices and food verification measures that
meet the guidelines and best international practices for
The statement of intent calls for:
- Exchanging information to better understand each
other’s produce safety systems;
- Developing effective culturally-specific education
- Identifying common approaches for training auditors;
- Enhancing collaboration on laboratory activities and
outbreak response/trace-back activities.
Weakest Link in Food
A disturbing trend well-known among food safety experts will just get worse as federal officials implement
the Food Safety Modernization Act. Budget cuts for
state and local health entities charged with monitoring everything from fresh produce operations to tattoo
parlors is not a surprise.
Joseph Corby, executive director of the Association
of Food and Drug Officials agreed that the report
provides further documentation of what many people
“The most frustrating thing is we know these things
are happening,” Corby said, “Staffs are shrinking,
public health is at risk, but the people who can change
it are ignoring it.” Corby said state legislators and city
and county officials aren’t dealing with the problem.
The NEHA report says the effect of budget cuts translates into decreased ability to respond to foodborne
illness outbreaks. According to the report, responses
from state and local health and agricultural departments, shows a 30% loss of staffing capacity from
2009 through 2013.
“With the magnitude of the loss, many of the new expectations of state and local programs to integrate into
the larger national system are effectively unachievable,” the NEHA report concludes. The report states
that nearly half of all funding for food protection and
foodborne illness response programs comes from state
and local governments.
Although the federal Food Safety Modernization Act
does not specifically assign duties to state and local
entities, the FDA will have to “lean harder on states
and locals to implement FSMA.”
Corby said the FDA already relies on state and local
inspectors who are contracted to do inspections for the
federal agency. Of the 23,000 FDA inspections in fis-
cal year 2012, 60% were conducted by state and local
officials under contract. It’s less expensive for FDA to
contract out the work than to hire additional staff of its
State and local departments generally can’t afford to
refuse the FDA contracts because they are using that
money to balance their budgets.
Other highlights from the NEHA survey respondents
• 17% of local agencies decreased abilities to do routine
• Of the smaller local agencies (responsible for populations up to 250,000) who must investigate food manufacturer or processor facility outbreaks, 60% report they
do not have capacity to meet that responsibility.
• Of state agencies with jurisdictions greater than 1
million, 42% do not have the capacity to sample foods
and 60% do not have the capacity to collect and process
Agriculture was recently rated at No. 5 in a listing
of the top 10 college majors with low unemployment, according to a post at the American Society for
Horticultural Science website, based on a Georgetown
Jobs in agricultural or natural resources fields often
shift with the economy, but unemployment is still
pretty low for people with these majors. The Georgetown University study pegged the rate at 7% for new
college grads, but this dropped to 2.4% for those with
both experience and a degree. Some schools offer online degrees in these fields, and getting started usually
only takes earning an associate degree or less.
For those interested in becoming a scientific researcher,
earning a Ph.D. is often the norm. Jobs in these fields
are available whether you’re the outdoorsy type or you
prefer to work inside.
Seeking Jobs Should
Consider an AG Major
Source: American Society
for Horticultural Science