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From snake oil to science: I peddled 'clean' eating, wellness — until I learned the facts
Marketing that organic food is cleaner is all around us. Just take a look at the campaign “Skip the Chemicals.” It encourages consumers to fear the scary-sounding names of chemicals and adopt a better-safe-than-sorry attitude toward their food. Ultimately, though, it steers consumers toward more costly organic foods, although there is no evidence that organic foods are more nutritious.
The “Dirty Dozen” list is another marketing ploy. Not only did I have this list stuck to my fridge at home, I also encouraged my clients to download and share it. Using pesticide residue data from the USDA, it ranks food by the levels of detected pesticides to generate a list of the top 12 fruits and vegetables consumers should avoid in their conventional versions.
Take strawberries, which topped the list in 2018. The USDA published test results on tens of thousands of nonorganic fruit and vegetable samples across the country. Most of the samples of strawberries showed residues of at least one kind of pesticide and, in one sample of strawberries, 22 different pesticide residues were detected — but that doesn’t mean the pack of strawberries you buy at the grocery store will have 22 pesticides.