Nowadays, consumption of chemical contaminated food is one of the most troublesome concerns among the Shanghai community. The growing confusion over what to consume and what not to needs to be timely attended. In fact, the positive effects of consuming fresh fruits and vegetables needs to be weighed against the potential intake of pesticide residues.
According to the data from the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food and Drug Administration, apples are the most chemically contaminated produce and even after washing and peeling, 92% of apples contains at least 2 pesticides, which is being used mainly to achieve a longer shelf life than usual.
Many chemicals, including organophosphates used in the agriculture industry, are potent neurotoxins for the growing brain causing low IQ levels, impaired brain development and behavioral problems. In addition, potential exposure to such chemicals during pregnancy further leads to low birth weight and preterm deliveries.
Here’s a list of the most contaminated produce in China, an update for 2015 of the so-called ”dirty dozen”
Sweet bell pepper
Kale and Hot peppers – Contain traces of highly hazardous pesticides.
According to USDA:
• 99% of apples, 98% of peaches and 97% of nectarines have been tested positive for at least one pesticide residue.
• The average potato has more pesticides by weight than any other produce.
• The striking evidence was that picking up five servings of fruits and vegetables from the 12 most contaminated, brings you average of 14 different pesticides a day.
On the bright side, there are some fruits and vegetables that are known to contain fewer pesticides than others, here’s the 2015 list of ”the clean 15”:
Sweet peas (frozen)
According to USDA:
• Avocado is the cleanest. Only 1% showed detectable pesticide residue.
• 89% pinapples, 82% Kiwi, 80% papayas, 88% Mango and 61% cantaloupe had no pesticide residues detected.
How to minimize pesticide exposure
Consume organic products. This certainly exposes you to fewer pesticide residues. Fruits and vegetables which have been grown under strict organic regulations to significantly reduce the chemical residues ingested. It is advisable to go for organic when it comes to the dirty dozen lists. In fact as clean 15 contain relatively few pesticide residues; it is safer to consume them even in non-organic form.
Wash thoroughly: The idea behind is that you should do what you can do. Though it is not realistic to have high pressure washing at domestic kitchens, we can always wash it as thoroughly as possible to reduce the pesticide load.
Peel off the outer skin cover: This will bring you considerable reduction in pesticide exposure.
Cook up to a certain level will also bring down to lower pesticide exposure comparable to the raw produce.
Finally It needs to be emphasized that consumption of fruits and vegetables offers you plenty of health benefits such as preventing certain cancers, heart attacks, strokes and many more, so even thought it might feel challenging to avoid the intake of pesticides, it is worth doing whatever you can to get as much nutrition as possible.
//Dr. Amali Sajeewika MD, Family medicine, Pediatrics and Women's health, JJ - Premier Medical care, Ruidong Hospital (Jinqiao-Pudong), Shanghai, P.R. China, firstname.lastname@example.org
Special thanks goes to Laure Perriot, Expat Marketing Director, Fields, China for the 2015 update on dirty dozen and clean 15.