A coalition of health and hazardous-materials agencies from King County, Seattle and 38 neighboring communities have done an admirable and rapid job in redesigning a controversial wallet-size shopper’s guide to pesticide-safe produce.
Last month, I reported that the coalition � the Local Hazardous Waste Management Program � pulled the popular card from its Web site and the printed material it distributes around the county.
Agri-business and farmer’s groups had pressured the agency to dump the card that listed the fruits and vegetables containing the highest and lowest amount of pesticide residue. They also objected that the back of the card discussed hazardous household products.
The most vocal group, Washington Friends of Farms and Forests, insisted the card � which was based on data from the USDA � endangered the survival of local farmers, but didn’t really explain why.
Nevertheless, the coalition’s new boss, Jay Watson, pulled the card, saying, “The design of the card is flawed” and “The information was oversimplified. It doesn’t address the scientific uncertainly (of pesticides).”
Watson sent the draft of the new card to several academics, toxicologists, organic food specialists and agricultural experts and he asked for all their recommendation by tomorrow so the card can be approved and reissued quickly.
Also, the back of the card is now a guide to the purchasing and safe handling of produce.
I was able to contact five of the “reviewers.” Most said they were impress and thought the new, more inclusive listing was an improvement. A couple liked it, but still suggested additional, but minor changes.
From my perspective, one of the most relevant changes is that, unlike the earlier card, this one includes imported food products which often have much higher level of pesticides than domestically grown crops.
The rankings on the new card are not based on USDA data but rather, the EPA dietary risk index that weighs many more factors. The index was created when Congress order the EPA to determine the amount of pesticides that children were consuming in their diet. This Inspector General report offers more information on EPA’s efforts.
I was not able to contact the three reviewers from the state Agriculture Department or the ag associations, so it will be interesting to see what the final card will look like.