Truth Wins Round One: ABC Confirms Stossel's Pesticide Results don't Exist

For Immediate Release: 
Wednesday, September 6, 2000

WASHINGTON - After six months of stone-walling, ABC News yesterday confirmed an Environmental Working Group (EWG) allegation that the network did not conduct pesticide tests for a special "20/20" investigation by correspondent John Stossel that was harshly critical of organic food.

Now the network executive heading the investigation is also looking into EWG allegations that Stossel seriously distorted lab research on bacterial contamination during the broadcast.

ABC has stated that earlier news accounts were in error in reporting that ABC News has already exonerated Stossel and his producer, David Fitzpatrick, of wrongdoing. No conclusions have been reached by ABC News regarding personnel actions in the episode.

"John Stossel bills himself as a contrarian 'reporter with a point of view', who sees the facts and the truth through conventional wisdom that blinds other reporters," said Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group and the principal author of EWG's own investigation into the ABC News story, Give Us A Fake.

"Real reporters make sure they have their facts straight and their science accurate," Cook said. "Stossel's not a contrarian, he's a counterfeiter who will do anything to boost his ratings and his speaking fees to industry groups."

Now that the pesticide test fabrication has been verified, the next phase of the investigation will deal with Stossel's false and reckless claim that the levels of E. coli bacteria found in organic produce were dangerous.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's fact sheet on E. coli, "A positive finding for E. coli does not indicate that the food tested presents a health hazard to consumers. Why? Because most strains of E. coli are benignÉE. coli is not in itself a cause of food-borne disease."

"If we could find the USDA's web page and fact sheet on E. coli, so could Stossel and his producer, " said Cook. "This is Food Safety 101. It is incomprehensible that a network reporter was incapable of such a basic level of research. Stossel's statement that 'Shouldn't we do a warning that says this stuff could kill you, and buying organic could kill you?' was in deliberate ignorance and defiance of rudimentary facts about E. coli."

"If journalism is alive and well at ABC News, David Westin will fire him," Cook added.

The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit environmental research group with offices in Washington, Oakland and Seattle.

EWG's investigation of the Stossel story on organic food is posted at

Key Issues: