I am about to present some information that may alarm some of you, others may already know this. My purpose is not to frighten but to inform. But first, I think it is important that I explain my bias, so you know where I am coming from. I am not an environmentalist or alarmist, but I believe there is a natural order. Things are good naturally, humans mess that up and Divine intervention can fix anything. I have an inherent mistrust of actions and decision making from government, large organizations and corporations because there are competing priorities and diluted responsibility. I am more trusting of people and small organizations where individual responsibility and virtue is apparent. I don’t believe government should legislate how we eat but I think improvements can and should be made through an informed public and their collective buying power. Our farming practices have become what they are today because farmers have been forced to mass produce as inexpensively as possible to make a living. They use the tools they have available to them, including a variety of chemicals, without which more people would go hungry.
As my wife and I got older and some of our family members experienced illness, we had a radical awakening to the possibility that a large part of human illness is related to how and what we are eating. It occurred to us that we have entrusted our lives to a system that has the capacity for error or apathy and may not always have our best interest prioritized.
Therefore, Country Workforce’s and Wholesome Farms & Garden’s mission is to produce delicious clean food for us and our customers and we are devoted to informing ourselves and our readers of healthy food production and consumption practices.
Put simply, we set out to avoid potentially harmful methods or contamination and maximize production and preparation methods that promote healthy nutrition.
One of the ways we do this is to not use any chemicals on the property. It would be impossible to block the air, wind and ground water but at least we are not increasing the chance of contamination by applying it to our own property. This makes things more difficult at times. We recently researched the FDA’s “Pesticide Residue Monitoring Program” and learned a few things we thought would be of interest to our readers.
- The program monitors herbicide and pesticide residue on foods directly consumed by humans and feedstuff consumed by animals which can then indirectly get into our food.
- The latest data available is for the year 2015. As of 2015, Glyphosate, the most widely applied chemical in the country was not being monitored. Preliminary testing for residue on soybeans, corn, milk and eggs began in 2016 and they report that none of the samples were in violation. No idea what that means. The data did not say what was considered a violation but did say the EPA has established what is considered “safe”. Expanded monitoring of glyphosate in other foods began in 2018 and reporting of the data is expected to occur in the future.
- There were 835 domestic human food samples analyzed with about half of them having some chemical residue on them. In 15 of the 835 foods tested, the FDA implemented corrective action with the producer.
- Imported food was also tested and 43% of the samples had some chemical residue detected but almost 10% of the samples were considered to be “violative”. No explanation what that means.
An abbreviated list of the most common chemicals found are reported in the chart below with the number of samples that tested positive for the chemical in parentheses.
|Imidacloprid (362)||Thiophanate-methyl (352)||Boscalid (319)|
|Chlorpyrifos (310)||Acetamiprid (240)||Azoxystrobin (231)|
|Tebuconazole (190)||Cypermethrin (176)||Fludioxonil (160)|
|Pyraclostrobin (158)||Metalaxyl (154)||Bifenthrin (142)|
|Thiamethoxam (138)||Pyrimethanil (136)||Chlorantraniliprole (135)|
|Iprodione (126)||Difenoconazole (119)||Myclobutanil (116)|
|Cyprodinil (114)||Permethrin (109)||Lambda-cyhalothrin (105)|
|Malathion (99)||Thiabendazole (96)||Piperonyl butoxide (94)|
|Dimethoate (93)||Propiconazole (93)||Clothianidin (92)|
|Fenhexamid (81)||Propamocarb (73)||Spinosad (73)|
|Methoxyfenozide (69)||Methamidophos (66)||Thiacloprid (66)|
|Captan (65)||Methomyl (64)||Buprofezin (61)|
|Flonicamid (58)||Trifloxystrobin (58)||Linuron (56)|
|Dimethomorph (51)||Tricyclazole (51)||Fenpropathrin (46)|
|Pyriproxyfen (46)||Chlorothalonil (43)||Flubendiamide (43)|
|Acephate (42)||Acibenzolar-S-methyl (41)||Fenbuconazole (41)|
|Oxamyl (41)||Carbaryl (40)||Bifenazate (37)|
The most frequent samples to contain residue were fruits/fruit juice and vegetables. In fact, very few fruit samples were found not to have some chemical residue. No results were reported for meat and it appears that meat has not been tested. It is much less likely that chemicals fed to animals will remain in the products from the animal, but it is never-the-less possible. A small number of the dairy samples in-fact were found to have residue. None of the egg samples tested had measurable levels of chemicals detected, however. The effect of chemicals fed to animals is probably more likely to alter their health and therefore affect the nutritional content of the meat then to be contaminated with residue. Previously we mentioned how feeding beef cows can alter the nutritional content of beef. We also mentioned how cattle have a microbial fermenting gut that is important to how they process the feedstuff. Chemical contamination of the grass and feed they consume has the potential to alter the way their gut functions and therefore subsequently alter the nutritional content of the meat. I have yet to find proof of this in the literature, but this could be the topic of a future newsletter.
Questions not answered by the data.
As I read the data, many questions come to mind. Why are some samples considered violative when there are not clearly defined tolerances being exceeded? What is the standard and who is making the decisions? If close to 50% of all the tested food has measurable amounts of chemical residue and as much as 10% of them were considered violative, how do these contaminated foods affect our health if consumed? Why are some obvious data like the chemical Glyphosate and sampling of domestic oranges not included? More data is coming out about the potential safety concerns of Glyphosate (click here to learn more). Since our family consumes oranges and orange juice more than any other fruit juice, I did a little more research into that. Like many other crops, oranges are sprayed with chemicals while they are growing and after they are harvested. Chemical residue has been found in oranges and it appears that most of the chemicals can be washed off (Kruve et. al., 2007). Some chemicals, however, were found to penetrate the outer skin and diffuse into the pulp. Therefore, there is no way to wash all chemicals off and we have likely been consuming some of it for years without knowing the consequences.
Conclusions and Recommendations.
- Despite having a government agency telling us that most of the samples measured are “safe”, I am not fond of the idea of eating any pesticide residue and I prefer not to do that. Since some samples were considered violative, it is kind of like Russian roulette. Therefore, the best practice is to “know where your food is coming from”. Buy where you can ask questions and determine the individuals taking responsibility for the product. We take the same approach with the vendors we use for our animal feed.
- Always wash your fruits and vegetables prior to eating them. Recommendations include using clean cool water and a small brush on fruits and vegies with thick skin and soaking vegetables that are more delicate. You can use a 10% solution of white vinegar to soak them and then rinse in pure water. Another source indicated that a 10mg/ml (about 5 tsp/gallon) baking soda soak is also effective. Be careful not to soak berries for too long or they will turn into mush.
- Buy your fruits and vegetables locally direct from the farmer and grow your own whenever possible. When you buy locally, ask the farmer where the produce is coming from because some farmers supplement what they grow with other sources. Buy organic when you can, especially fruit juice that can’t be washed! The certified organic program allows the use of some pesticides such as pyrethrin however so knowing the methods used to make your food is most important. If you are accustomed to perfectly symmetrical looking produce with no bug bites or holes, change your thinking. They only way to get that is with chemicals.
- There is no way to eliminate all chemical contamination. Most likely, low levels are not harmful, but if there is a juice that you consume a lot of, I would be certain of the source. Alternatively, more diversity is probably better than consuming a lot of one type of juice or brand. Freshly squeezed fruit juices made from organic fruit that have been washed appropriately is probably the safest juice to consume.