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’20/20′ sez ‘sorry’ for organic-food error

Journo Stossel to issue on-air correction, segment's producer suspended

NEW YORK — ABC News correspondent John Stossel will be formally reprimanded for his involvement in a “20/20” report on organic food that proved to be incorrect. The segment’s producer, David W. Fitzpatrick, will be suspended for at least a month.

ABC News declined to comment on the situation except to say, “We have completed our review of the circumstances surrounding the error and have taken the appropriate actions. No further comment will be made.”

The Feb. 4 report claimed that organic food is not necessarily healthier than conventional food — and might be dangerous. Citing research he said was commissioned by ABC News, Stossel said organic food was more likely to be contaminated by E. coli bacteria and does not necessarily have less pesticide residue than regular food.

Never tested

But the two researchers who were commissioned to do the testing said they never tested produce for pesticide residue for ABC, a fact brought to light by the Environmental Working Group, which supports organic produce. Despite complaints about the report from the EWG, ABC aired the segment again July 7.

Stossel will issue an on-air correction and apology on Friday’s “20/20,” but the EWG is not satisfied. The org’s Web site calls for Stossel’s immediate dismissal, saying, “This is not acceptable. It was not a mistake, it was a willful disregard of journalist ethics that resulted in a lie repeated to the millions of ’20/20′ viewers — twice. ABC must fire John Stossel immediately for this outrageous breach of journalist ethics.”

The EWG will air its complaints today at a press conference in New York.

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