Facts Not Fears: The Truth About Safe Farming Practices

Disclosure: This blog post is sponsored by The Alliance For Food & Farming. All opinions are my own, and I  was compensated for my time. Thanks for supporting the brands that make my business possible.

I recently had the absolute pleasure of attending a farm tour hosted by The Alliance For Food & Farming and Markon in Monterey, CA. Living in New York City, the closest I get to farming is the basil plant I grow on my windowsill, so this was truly a once in a lifetime experience.

I spent two and a half days in Northern California with a packed itinerary that included touring strawberry, celery and broccoli farms, visiting a bagged lettuce facility, dining at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, attending a produce expo to meet the people behind the produce and taking part in roundtable discussion with scientists, farmers and farming companies. To see some highlights from the tour, check out this video.

Get the facts about food safety on the farm!

Besides the perfect weather, beautiful scenery and great company, I learned so much. While visiting the farms, I was struck by two things:

  1. Farmers are diligent about food safety.
  2. Many consumers are confused about how to make safe produce choices.

Fruit & Veggie Stats

Let’s start with a few impressive stats about eating fresh fruits and veggies.

  1. According to the Centers for Disease Control, only 1 in 10 Americans eat enough fruits and vegetables each day. The Dietary Guidelines recommend getting 5 servings (about 1 cup per serving) each day.
  2. A recent study showed the more fruits and veggies you consume in a day, the happier you may be!
  3. If half of all Americans added one more serving of fruits and veggies to their daily diet, 20,000 cancer cases could be prevented annually. Imagine that!Get the facts about food safety on the farm!

Farming Food Safety

Now it’s time to talk about the elephant in the room–the title of this article. With contaminated produce and foodborne illness making recent headlines, farmers have fallen under a tremendous amount of scrutiny as of late. As a matter of fact, studies show that fear based produce safety messaging confuses consumers and may result in reduced purchasing of any fruits and veggies. That’s the last thing that farmers or Dietitians want, especially since eating fruits and vegetables is one of the best things you can do for your health.

Get the facts about food safety on the farm!

But here’s the thing…the fruits and vegetables grown by Alliance for Food and Farming members are the same foods they take home to feed their own families, so it’s in their best interest to make it as safe as possible. Recently, the Alliance for Food and Farming conducted an independent review of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s Database of Foodborne Illness Outbreaks. This analysis found just 2 percent of all foodborne illness outbreaks with a known cause are associated with contamination of produce on the farm, in processing or transit. That number is much lower than the headlines would lead you to believe, but the goal is to have zero outbreaks.

Farmers follow rigorous food safety procedures, like third party testing and animal contamination inspections, to ensure their produce is safe for the consumer. 

Organic versus Conventional Produce

Although I know this is a hot topic, I’m just going to come right out and say it. I rarely buy organic produce. Why? A few reasons…

  • Decades of research show plant rich diets improve health and prevent diseases, and these studies were largely conducted using non-organic produce.
  • USDA data shows pesticide residues on tested foods are at levels below the tolerances established by the EPA and pose no safety concern.
  • The FDA says washing produce under running tap water reduces and often eliminates pesticide residues if they are present on fresh produce.
  • Organic produce is not necessarily pesticide free–it’s just sprayed with organic pesticides.

I think choosing conventional or organic is a personal choice and either is perfectly fine. The most important thing is to get those 5 servings each day, whether it’s organic or not!

The Bottom Line

Don’t live in fear of hyped-up headlines. Rest assured that farmers are doing everything they can so that you can eat fruits and vegetables without fear! It’s more important to eat any type of fruits and veggies than to not, so challenge yourself to add at least 5 varieties to your shopping cart today!

 

4 Comments

  • Reply
    Steven D Savage
    October 4, 2018 at 3:40 pm

    I’m glad you had the chance to experience real CA farming and that you wrote an articulate summary of what you learned

    • Reply
      Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD
      October 8, 2018 at 9:27 am

      Thank you so much for reading. It was an invaluable experience, and I’m glad I could share it with my readers.

  • Reply
    Keith Clark
    October 10, 2018 at 6:24 am

    First off, I appreciate your overall message that we should eat more produce. I agree! Americans need a more nutritious eating plan!
    However, speaking with one group of farmers and taking their word for it does not make you an expert on pesticide use and does not give you the credentials to tell consumers what is safe or unsafe when it comes to levels and types of pesticides.
    Also, if you trust in the EPA … you might want to do some ACTUAL research on their studies.
    I’ll leave it at that.

    • Reply
      Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD
      October 10, 2018 at 8:30 am

      Hi Keith, thanks for reading! I completely agree that everyone should eat more produce. I’m not claiming to be an expert on pesticides and farming. I’m sharing my experience, since this is my blog. However, I AM an expert on helping people eat healthy and nutritious foods, and I believe that taking the fear out of food and eating whatever type of produce you choose is the best way to do that.

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