Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Are the fruits and vegetables offered in the market really safe? Is it inevitable that one has to go for organically grown fresh produce, though they are economically unaffordable? What will be the consequences of consuming fresh produce items containing traces of one or the other chemical pesticides used by the growers in the field? These are questions that worry the consumers all over the world. Unfortunately there does not seem to be definitive answers that can assure any one, in spite of thousands of studies dealing with different aspects of pesticide residues in food. It reflects on the credibility of the food scientist as well as the industry that out of 100,000 publications on organic foods, scrutinized recently by experts, only 12 of them were found to be scientifically carried out as per correct experimental protocols acceptable to all. Where does one go for answers to queries like the ones above?

"As questions are raised on the role pesticides may play in ADHD and in other health problems, you'd be hard-pressed to find an expert who doesn't advise that people, especially pregnant women and small children, reduce their pesticide intake as much as possible. The top recommendation? Eating an entirely organic diet, which has been shown to significantly lower people's exposure levels, says Hopkins pediatrician Goldman. If that's not financially reasonable, given the generally higher cost of organics, it also helps to carefully wash all your fruits and vegetables -- conventional, frozen, organic and otherwise -- in cold water. Benbrook, for one, recommends bypassing fancy produce washes for the equally effective combo of mild soap and a washcloth or brush. And then rinse thoroughly. But be aware that you can't scrub away all the risks. "It's best to actually try to eat your way around pesticides . . . because most pesticides don't wash off, and seep into those blueberries or apple," says EWG's Wiles, who notes that the USDA data on pesticide levels is collected after produce has been washed, peeled and prepared the way you'd normally consume it. As a result, he suggests eating organic when possible and otherwise relying on what his organization calls the "Clean 15." These are conventional fruits and vegetables with the lowest levels of chemicals: typically thick-skinned, heartier, easier-to-grow produce with peels that you throw away, such as onions, avocados, corn, pineapples and mangoes. Then there's the "Dirty Dozen," those foods with the highest average levels of pesticide residues. These are usually highly perishable fruits and vegetables with soft skins, such as celery, peaches, strawberries, apples, blueberries, nectarines and sweet bell peppers".

A critical look at the report quoted above brings out an interesting fact that consumers will have no choice but to go for certified organic foods costing almost 50% more, if variety is needed in the diet! Many nutrition experts decry the practice of peeling, polishing and other processing steps practiced to prevent depletion in the nutritional value of foods consumed every day. On the other hand the inherent dangers posed by pesticide residues are forcing consumers to remove the protective coats from food produce to protect them selves against adverse effect of pesticides on health. A Hobson's choice indeed!


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