How safe is our food? Food
is something we cannot ignore, as without
it, we will not survive. But food safety has become more and more of a
concerning issue to those of us who care about what we eat. "You are
what you eat" now takes on new meanings if what we eat is laced with
toxic chemicals, preservatives and traces of chemical
For those of you who are unaware of the many toxic chemicals that go
into just growing strawberries by our conventional farmers, see our
page entitled: 4
Reasons for Growing Organic Strawberries and Toxic Sprays
Just how safe is our food? Read this sobering article by Jeff Behar
on what we ingest on a
daily basis when we consume non-organic fruits and vegetables. Once you
do you will have the answer to the question, just how safe is
"As many Americans continue to increase their consumption of fruits and
vegetables in their diet in an effort to increase their health, well
being, lifespan and decrease their risk to diabetes, heart disease and
other chronic conditions they may in fact be increasing their risk to
several types of cancer.
How Safe is our food? Is the Public at Risk?
There has been much publicity about the importance of increasing the
amount of fruit and vegetables in the diet. A day does not go by where
there is not a new article or press release about a study of the
positive effects of increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables in
Many health organizations, such as the American Cancer Society,
American Heart Association and the American Diabetes association all
recommend eating lots of vegetables and fruits.
However, as this healthy push towards increasing consumption of fruits
and vegetables and decreasing consumption of refined and processed
foods there is a growing concern about regarding low level pesticide
exposure from chemical residues left on produce.
The use of pesticides on fruit and vegetables over the last 60 years
farmers and growers have changed the way they produce food in order to
meet the expectations of consumers, supermarkets and governments. In
doing so they have made many changes to the way they farm. This often
includes the use of pesticides to:
- Protect crops from insect pests, weeds and fungal diseases
they are growing.
- To protect Crops and increase yields. Much of the world
production is lost to attack from pest and diseases, in the field, at
harvest and in storage. Crop protection decreases spoilage, which
lowers price and increases availability. Crop protection products have
also enabled food production to keep pace with the world population.
- Prevent rats, mice, flies and other insects from
foods while they are being transported and stored.
- Safeguard human health, by stopping food crops being
- Meet consumers expectations. Consumers expect attractive,
quality, nutritious, safe, reasonably priced food, pest free, toxin
free with minimum waste and microbial contamination. If a significant
amount of produce was to be lost to pest damage, the price per unit of
marketable produce would rise substantially.
Pesticide Use a Growing Health Concern: So How Safe is our
While pesticides have important uses, studies show that some pesticides
cause health problems at certain levels of exposure.
Improper pesticide use has been found to cause various forms of cancer,
birth defects, miscarriages, sterility, and deaths. The EPA ranks
pesticide residues as one of the leading health problems in the US. A
significant amount of produce in US groceries is imported. Of this
produce a significant portion comes from countries using large amounts
of pesticides and herbicides during the farming practices.
A study conducted by the National Academy of Scientists estimates that
in the next 70 years, one million additional cases of cancer in the US
will be caused by pest residues.
How Pesticide Use Threatens Consumers - So How Safe is our
How Safe is our Food?
threatens US consumers in the "circle of poison"
effect in which unregistered or banned pesticides are exported to other
countries such as Mexico and sprayed on crops whose produce is then
exported back to the US. Mexico has increased its reliance on pesticide
imports and is currently the second largest pesticide importer in Latin
New Zealand pesticide use has also continued to increase with New
Zealand continuing to rely heavily on pesticide use in its farming
practices (source: Trends in Pesticide Use in New Zealand: 2004).
Additionally many European countries also export banned pesticides to
many nations that export produce to the US and find their way to US
grocery stores and subsequently into US homes for consumption.
Homegrown fruits and vegetables may not be much better. A report card
for pesticide regulation issued by Consumers Union in 2001 gave the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency a grade of D for reducing dietary
risks associated with pesticide residues on foods grown in the U.S.,
citing "slow progress, and much of the task incomplete." Testing Deemed
Spotty at Best.
Currently, US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) responsible for
protecting the public health by assuring the safety, efficacy, and
security of our nations food supply; including food imported to the
FDA tests on imported foods reveal that contamination by illegal
pesticides account for only five percent of imports (other independent
testing suggest contamination rates slightly higher); however,
contamination rates are higher for imported carrots, pineapples, rice,
peas and pears (Allen, May 28, 1991).
Of important note however, is the FDA is understaffed and only tests
one or two percent of imports while the rest wind up in US grocery
How Safe is our Food? Strategies to Reduce Pesticide Exposure
Here are some strategies you can employ to reduce you and your
potential exposure to toxic pesticide contamination from food sources.
A recent study at
the University of Washington found that children who ate mostly
organically grown fruits and vegetables had only one-sixth the amount
of pesticide by-products in their urine as compared to children who ate
conventionally grown foods. If cost is an issue, as a minimum, consider
buying organic varieties of just the foods that have been shown to be
more likely to have high levels of chemical residues, such as peaches,
apples, pears, winter squash, green beans, grapes, strawberries,
raspberries, spinach, and potatoes.
Avoid imported produce
known to have high levels of chemical residue.
consider especially avoiding tomatoes, strawberries, and spinach from
Mexico, peaches, pears, and grapes from Chile, fruits and vegetables
especially apples from New Zealand.
Always wash (and peel,
fruits and vegetables.
Soaking is fine to loosen dirt and
debris, but studies have shown that running water is the most effective
means of physically removing pesticide residues as well as dirt and
bacteria. Note: washing with commercial produce washes were shown in
one study to be only slightly more effective than plain running water
in removing residues and may not be worth the extra money.
Peel produce that is
likely to have
high levels of pesticide residue
. The pesticide DDT
, banned in the
U.S. in 1973, has
been found in the skins of root vegetables grown more than 20 years
later. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. If your produce isn't
organically grown, eating a mix of foods from a variety of sources can
minimize your risk of ingesting too much of any one pesticide.
Throw out the outer
leaves of leafy
The outer leafs are the parts of the crop that
get the highest concentration of the pesticide spray.
How Safe is our
Food? - Bottom Line
Despite the potential health risks of pesticide residues, current
science indicates the health advantages of eating plenty of fruits and
vegetables are greater."
So, that question, yet again! How safe
is our food?
If it is not grown organically, not very safe at all! See
the full list of 47 foods that contain pesticides
ranging from the worst affected to the least.
Jeff Behar is a senior writer for
www.musclemagfitness.com and www.Mybesthealthportal.com where he
regularly writes about hot topics in the areas of health, fitness,
disease prevention, nutrition, bodybuilding, men's health, weight loss,
vitamins and supplements, and anti-aging.