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5 Ways The Wonderful Company Misinforms Consumers about Oil Wastewater Use

by Rebecca Spector, West Coast Director

January 26, 2018
Center for Food Safety

The Wonderful Company, maker of Halos mandarins and POM products, continues to give consumers misleading information about their use of oil wastewater to irrigate crops. Last October we reported on the response the company gave to consumer concerns. Fast forward over a year since we launched the campaign to tell the company to stop using oil wastewater and the company is still trying to be slick (pun intended). While the company spouts claims of “filtered” we know the waters are murky, so to speak. Pressure is mounting but The Wonderful Company is digging in its heels. 

Based on the misinformation The Wonderful Company continues to water us with, we answer five frequently asked questions about oil wastewater use:

1. Is the water clean?

While The Wonderful Company claims to use “filtered” water, exactly how it is filtered we do not know, and we do not know what chemicals make it through their filters. Part of their process involves blending the water with freshwater, which is designed to reduce the concentration of chemicals, not eliminate them, so it is more than likely that their filtration process is not removing all of the chemicals. The water is tested but not for all the chemicals that we believe are possible in the wastewater. There is also no adequate state oversight of this type of irrigation to ensure the process is safe.

2. What is the difference between gray water and oil wastewater?

Oil wastewater is not gray water, at least not in the way we regard gray water as being recycled water. Gray water is wastewater generated from residential, commercial, and industrial bathroom sinks, bath tub shower drains, and clothes washing equipment drains (excluding water streams from toilets). Instead, oil wastewater is a byproduct of the oil extraction process. As such, it has a very particular exposure to toxic chemicals that would not be expected in normal gray water.

3. Is there oil residue on the fruit?

There has been extremely limited testing of crops to determine whether it contains toxic chemicals from the oil wastewater; we’re working on getting more testing done, along with our campaign to have more (all) of the possible chemicals disclosed. It is hard to test for something without knowing what you are looking for. A recent report examined the chemical additives used in the oil operations that supply wastewater for crop irrigation. The result is alarming. They found that a total of 173 different chemical additives were used in oil and gas fields, of which 38 percent were not sufficiently identified for preliminary hazard evaluation. Why are so many unknown? Largely, it is because the companies are withholding information under proprietary claims.

4. How can we be sure there is no oil wastewater in my food?

Independent testing is the only way we can be sure the water is clean. Of the 173 chemicals researchers were able to analyze mentioned above, they found that 43 percent of them can be classified as “potential chemicals of concern from human health and/or environmental perspectives and require more thorough investigation.” We are seeking rigorous independent testing of the water and the produce grown with the water, and until and unless that water can be proven to be pure and free of toxins associated with oil extraction, we are calling for a ban on the practice.

5. How else can using oil wastewater hurt our food system?

The presence of chemicals in the end-product is just one aspect of the problem. Even if the chemicals do not remain on the produce, they could still pose high risks to agricultural workers and the environment.

The truth is the use of oil wastewater to irrigate crops has not been proven safe for farm workers who are exposed firsthand to these chemicals or the environment, including the fish, birds, and animals that may be exposed. When identification of chemical additives remains a trade secret and/or lacks toxicity and environmental profile information, it puts consumers, farmworkers, and the environment at risk.

6. How can I help?

We will keep putting pressure on The Wonderful Company to stop watering our food with oil wastewater. Please join us! Take action or share it with your friends if you have already added your name!

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