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Can’t Handle the Food Truth?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

 

Food industry lobbyists are none too pleased with EWG’s new scoring system for foods, accusing EWG’s Food Scores of:

  • “Misinformation”
  • “Void of scientific rigor”
  • “Inaccurate and misleading information”
  • “Extreme and scientifically unfounded views”

Seems like we hit a nerve.

Apparently, helping consumers identify those foods with too much fat, sugar and salt  -- as well as foods with unregulated food chemicals or too much mercury – is giving Big Food’s hired guns indigestion.

Of course, food manufacturers don’t like scoring systems like NuVal or Guiding Stars, so it’s no surprise they are already attacking Food Scores.

Could it be that so many packaged foods score poorly?

Here’s what we found: far too many packaged foods have too much sugar, salt and fat and many foods contain chemicals or other ingredients of concern.  Overall, 25 percent of the 80,000 products we reviewed received and 8, 9 or 10. (For EWG, less is more: the best foods score a 1, while the worst foods score a 10.)  

Big Food’s lobbyists contend that we relied upon “isolated studies” to include added sugars and some low-calorie sweeteners in our scores. By “isolated studies,” they mean peer-reviewed research by the Institute of Medicine, the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences.

Big Food’s lobbyists also claim that we used “online sources” to address the risks posed by arsenic and other food contaminants. By  “online sources,” they mean the Food and Drug Administration.

In fact, our scoring system is based upon hundreds of studies conducted by leading experts, including those at the World Health Organization. And, unlike industry-funded studies of food chemicals, the studies that served as our references are available for everyone to see.

Big Food’s lobbyists are especially peeved that EWG recognized that organic foods score better than conventional foods.

Well, duh. Unlike so-called “natural” foods peddled by food giants, certified organic foods cannot be produced with toxic pesticides, antibiotics and hormones. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has even stricter rules when it comes to what can go into “flavors.”  Nor can organic food use genetically engineered ingredients, though GE content doesn’t factor into our scoring system.

Even fruit and vegetable lobbyists took time to bash EWG’s new food scoring tool.  Top scores for actual fruits and vegetables weren’t enough for the Alliance for Food and Farming, a trade association that represents conventional produce growers, which accused EWG of making “disparaging, inaccurate safety claims” in our Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. This is the same group that blamed EWG for scaring people away from healthy food and spent $180,000 of your tax dollars erroneously claiming the Shopper’s Guide discourages people from eating their fruits and veggies.

As regular users of the Shopper’s Guide know, EWG’s top shelf advice is to eat your fruits and veggies. But, as EWG’s research shows, not all veggies are the same, and some have more pesticide residues than others. That’s why we will ignore the call to discontinue publishing our Shopper’s Guide.

It seems that some food and farm lobbyists can’t handle the food truth.

 

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