bite my words

Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Colour me surprised: Organic foods may contain pesticides!

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Last week consumers of organic produce got their knickers all in a knot over news reports of pesticide residue being found on “organic” produce. Now, I thought that we all knew by now that purchasing organic produce didn’t guarantee avoidance of pesticides. Apparently not.

Just a reminder… Organic food is not grown in isolation. There are pesticides in the soil, the rain, the air. Organic foods are not shipped and sold in isolation. There are many stages at which they may become contaminated with pesticides. Indeed, organic foods may also have pesticides deliberately applied during the growing process. Pesticides are allowable in organic farming, provided that they are not synthetic. For a list of permitted substances in organic farming see this from the Government of Canada.

Before we all give-up on organic produce, it’s worth considering a couple of things. One, it appears that the number of samples was quite small (the image at the bottom of the CBC article shows a sample size of 30 for the grapes). This could mean that the numbers are not an accurate reflection of the state of pesticide residue in produce in Canada. Two, only 1.8% of organic samples exceeded allowable limits for pesticides; 4.7% of non-organic samples did. In fact, less than half of the samples of organic produce tested positive for pesticides at all. While 78.4% of non-organic produce tested positive. Considering the numerous opportunities for organic produce to becomes contaminated with pesticides the number showing residue is actually quite small.

Yes, you’re taking a risk that your food is going to be contaminated with pesticides. That risk is present whether you choose organic or not. However, that risk is considerably greater if you choose non-organic produce. It’s also worth taking into consideration that by choosing organic produce you’re choosing to have fewer synthetic pesticides put into the environment. Over time, this may mean that your organic food will be less and less likely to be contaminated with synthetic pesticides.


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Teaed off: Are there pesticides in your cuppa?

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A recent article in Natural News reported that a number of Celestial Seasonings brand teas “contained potentially dangerous levels of multiple pesticides”. This article was based on a report released by Glaucus Research back in February of this year. It’s important to note that Glaucus Research is “highly critical of Hain Celestial. Though Glaucus Research is an investment firm that specializes in short selling and one which stands to gain financially if Hain Celestial stocks go down”.

In response to the initial report by Glaucus, Celestial Seasonings issued a statement of Safety Assurance. Telling consumers that they had promptly had their teas tested for pesticide residues by an independent lab and had found that pesticide levels of all teas tested were within acceptable amounts.

So, who to believe? The company that stands to profit from plummeting sales of Celestial Seasonings teas? Or Celestial Seasonings which stands to lose from plummeting sales. It’s a pity that we can’t do our own pesticide residue testing at home, as I’m not inclined to have faith in either party here.

What’s a tea drinker to do? The article in Natural News suggests that Rankabrand.org rates Twinnings Tea as an A (Celestial Seasonings received a D). However, Twinnings actually has a C on the rank a brand site. Regardless, the brand ranking is based on sustainability, not food safety, making it somewhat irrelevant to the discussion. Not that I’m saying sustainability is unimportant (of course, it’s highly important) I’m just saying that if you’re worried about pesticides in your tea, that site isn’t going to be of any assistance.

I found this 2010-2011 report on pesticides in coffee, juice, and tea by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency that doesn’t state specific brands tested but does tell us that 75% of teas sampled were compliant with regulations and: “Oolong tea contained the highest percentage of samples with pesticide residue violations at 75% followed by white tea at 50%, green tea at 32%, herbal and black tea at 20% each, and other tea at 12%. Detectable pesticide residues were found in all types of tea sampled.” However, the CFIA goes on to state that the level of pesticides found in the teas did not pose any risk to the consumer.

It seems that the risk of pesticide consumption has less to do with the brand than with the variety of tea. I think that you’re likely to consume at least some quantity of pesticide when you’re drinking a cup of tea and you just have to decide if that risk is worth it to you.

 


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Follow Friday: Save the bees

WHOLE FOODS MARKET PRODUCE DEPARTMENT

As most people are aware (I hope!) bees are crucial to our food supply and existence. Our survival depends upon their survival. Unfortunately, these pollinators haven’t been faring so well of late.

The above photo shows what the produce section of the grocery store would look like without bees.

One of the major threats to the bee population is pesticides. You can show your support for the bees by signing the Save Our Bees petition at Change.org and the Avaaz petition.


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Shocker: Organic food no more nutritious than non-organic!

Yet another study has shown that organic food is not more nutritious than “conventionally” grown food. The only thing that I’m surprised about is that this is big news. This should be common knowledge by now. I’ve blogged about it before. But perhaps it bears repeating. There are good reasons to buy organic foods; better nutrition is not one of them. If you want to protect the environment and reduce your exposure to pesticides then you should buy organic foods whenever possible. If you want to support your local economy and have fresher (and arguably more tasty) food then you should buy local organic foods. If you want to get more nutrients out of your food then you should eat more whole foods, regardless of whether or not they’re organic.


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Don’t let pesky pesticides put you off organic

It’s been all over the news today that pesticide residue was found on organic produce. I can’t say that this surprised me. To be honest, I was surprised that everyone else seems so surprised. I was also surprised that the percentage of contaminated produce was so small, only 23.6%. There are many ways in which organic produce can become contaminated with pesticides. Pesticides get into the water and soil and can contaminate produce in this way. There can also be contamination from spraying on neighbouring non-organic crops. According to reports, the contamination of this particular produce occurred post-harvest during storage. I’m not sure how that’s acceptable, perhaps it’s only necessary to grow crops without using pesticides to use the organic designation? That’s beside the point though. We’ve pumped so many hazardous chemicals into the environment that it’s amazing that anything is left uncontaminated. Babies are born with pesticides in their systems. We store pesticides in our body fat. A little pesticide contamination shouldn’t deter you from buying organic if that’s your prerogative. There are still many benefits to organic produce. For one thing, the more organic food that’s grown the fewer pesticides being added to the water and soil, that means that in the long run we’ll be wreaking less havoc on the environment. You’re also avoiding GMOs by choosing organic. Even if some organic produce is contaminated by pesticides, you’re still lowering your risk of exposure in comparison to “conventionally” grown crops. Purchasing organic produce doesn’t absolve you from needing to wash your fresh fruit and veggies anyway. Produce has come into contact with so many other possible contaminants during its journey to the grocery store and its time on the shelf that you should always wash it before eating it.

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