The organization has focused its work on countering communication that could scare consumers from fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables. Its Safe Fruits and Veggies initiative presents science-backed information to help consumers make intelligent purchasing decisions.
The Alliance for Food and Farming’s membership consists of about 50 associations, commodity boards and individual grower-shippers of fruits and vegetables from throughout the United States. Everything the AFF does is funded by voluntary contributions from its members, who must be farmers or companies who grow, sell, ship or market fruits and vegetables, or associations who represent farmers and companies. The list is no secret.
That’s why AFF spokeswoman Teresa Thorne was surprised that a recent report issued by the environmentalist organization Friends of the Earth named the Safe Fruits and Veggies campaign as an example of “covert communications” that “Big Food and agrochemical corporations are using to deliberately mislead the public — and reporters — on facts about industrial agriculture and organic and sustainable food production.” The nonprofit group reported an annual revenue of close to $7 million on its 2013 990 tax form.
Commenting on the report, “Spinning Food: How Industry Front Groups and Covert Communications Are Shaping the Story of Food,” Thorne said, “Like the previous report from food activist Michelle Simon a few years ago (Best PR Money Can Buy) the AFF’s Safe Fruits and Veggies Campaign is among the ‘covert communications’ highlighted. Ironically, this report seems to acknowledge our successes in spite of a small budget.”
Others have agreed. Tom Karst with The Packer trade publication said, “I find it funny that the report ‘Spinning Food’ has created alarm about communications from the food industry. As the FOE news release puts it, “Left unchecked, the recent growth in industry-sponsored spin could succeed in misleading consumers and policy makers, reducing demand for and access to safe, sustainable and organic food.”
“Left unchecked, consumers might actually hear both sides of the debate! Come on FOE, you are better than that,” Karst wrote.
He continued: “ ‘Spinning Food’ notes that the Alliance for Food and Farming has a smallish budget of less than $250,000 in 2013. That’s like David compared to the Goliath FOE.”
Among the AFF’s other recent efforts, it released a five-year analysis of media coverage of the Environmental Working Group’s annual “Dirty Dozen” list, a key source of consumer misinformation about produce safety. The analysis showed that the AFF’s efforts to counter EWG’s misinformation reduced negative media coverage pegged to the list by more than half (99.8 percent down to 48 percent). Learn more about the report here.
The analysis also showed that the AFF was coming into its own with favorable news coverage. Stories with a positive angle regarding the Alliance made up almost 30 percent of all Dirty Dozen media coverage at one point during the campaign. Overall media coverage and consumer reach of the “Dirty Dozen” list has declined dramatically, reaching an all-time low this year. It’s become old news, even though the EWG updates the list annually.
Recently, FFVA President Mike Stuart was named to the AFF’s board of directors. “The work of the AFF on behalf of the produce industry to counter misinformation about our safe and healthy products is important for both consumers as well as the organic and conventional farmers we all proudly represent,” Stuart said when he was named to the board. “I hope to use my years of experience in the produce industry to positively influence the AFF organization and help advance the goals of providing science-based, credible food safety information to consumers.” FFVA Public Affairs Director Lisa Lochridge serves on the Alliance’s communication committee.
To learn more about the Alliance’s science-based food safety information (including why you would have to eat hundreds of servings of certain foods to consume unsafe levels of pesticides) visit safefruitsandveggies.com. For more information about the AFF, visit its membership website at www.foodandfarming.info.