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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PHlavor leaves a bad taste in my mouth

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I somehow stumbled across this blog Articles of Health the other day. I was a little baffled by this “research scientist” promoting the use of some sort of liquid salt obtained from the Great Salt Lake. According to this Robert O. Young, standard table salt is toxic and is putting the PH balance of our bodies in jeopardy. Instead, we should be consuming this liquid salt which provides many cures for common ailments such as ear infections, all sorts of imbalances, psoriasis, nasal congestion, etc. Interestingly enough, this liquid salt from the Great Lake is said to be superior to your regular sea salt or rock salt because “The oceans are being used as dumping grounds for harmful toxic poisons”. Funny, that the Great Salt Lake should be immune to pollutants. Not that Wikipedia is the be-all and end-all, but I found these statements about the Great Salt Lake quite interesting: “US Geological Survey and US Fish & Wildlife researchers, originally studying¬†selenium¬†levels in the lake, discovered some of the highest levels of methyl-mercury they had ever seen, at 25 nanograms per liter of water.” And: “Food-grade salt is not produced from the lake, as it would require further costly processing to ensure its purity.” The bottom of Young’s post contains a link to an online store for purchase of his magical salt.

I was curious about a research scientist who would blatantly promote such a product so I googled him. The second hit was a lovely in-depth article on Quack Watch: A Critical Look at “Dr.” Robert O. Young’s Theories and Credentials. Highlights include the fact that much of his alleged medical training is suspect. His views are not supported by any scientific research. In addition, as you (hopefully) already know, the notion of an alkaline diet is absolute hogwash.

The idea that dietary modification can change the acidity of the body is silly. Homeostatic mechanisms keep the acidity of the blood stream within a narrow range. Certain foods can leave end-products called ash. Alkaline-ash foods include fresh fruit and raw vegetables. Acid-ash foods include all animal products, whole grains, beans, and other seeds. These foods can change the acidity of the urine (but not the body as a whole), but that’s irrelevant since your urine is contained in your bladder and does not affect the pH elsewhere in the body [12]. Thus, even if “body pH” were a primary cause of disease, the strategies the Youngs propose would not influence it in the way they claim.

This liquid salt is not going to provide superior benefits to other forms of salt. In fact, if it is actually obtained from the Great Salt Lake as Young claims, it’s quite likely to provide more toxins than traditional forms of salt. Never trust a “doctor” who is going to receive financial benefit from providing you with a “cure”.