Agriculture Secretary Clayton K. Yeutter lashed out at “self-proclaimed nutritionists” today in a barb apparently aimed at actress Meryl Streep, who has spoken out against the use of pesticides on fruit.
“There are some self-proclaimed nutritionists who probably ought to stick with acting instead of trying to proclaim their knowledge of nutritional subjects,” Yeutter said.
He did not mention Streep by name, but he criticized statements she and others have made about the cancer-causing chemical Alar, which is used primarily to preserve the crispness and appearance of red apples.
“All of this is a gross overreaction,” Yeutter said at a meeting of the National Newspaper Assn. “We ought not to be frightened by . . . carefully orchestrated media efforts into altering our consumption patterns in a way that just doesn’t make any sense.”
Streep has been a vocal opponent of the use of pesticides, especially Alar. She testified in Congress on Thursday and has appeared on television saying Alar, which the government has proposed banning, may be dangerous.
Streep’s recommendations that consumers wash their produce in soap and water are wrong, Yeutter said.
The Alar controversy arose in response to a Natural Resources Defense Council report in February that agricultural chemicals, particularly Alar, increase the risk of cancer in children.
Critics of the report say that it is outdated and that Alar is no longer widely used.
Yeutter said the Environmental Protection Agency had acted responsibly in planning to phase out the use of the chemical, “even though there may be little or no risk to any American from the consumption of apples with Alar.”
“We shouldn’t go beyond that now and conclude that apples are unsafe,” he said.
He said school districts that have stopped serving apples in school lunch programs because of the Alar scare should resume serving them.