Thursday, October 26, 2006

Food Safety


Which foods are most likely to contain high levels of pesticide residues? Are any foods safe?

Consumers Union, an independent, nonprofit testing and information organization based in New York, has rated various foods based on the frequency of pesticide detection on a crop, the levels of residues, and the relative toxicity of the residues. By rating them on a scale on which a score of over 100 is considered grounds for concern, they've provided consumers with a meaningful way to choose safer foods for their children.

According to their analysis, the foods with the highest pesticide residue scores are:

  • Fresh peaches (U.S.)
  • Winter squash (U.S., fresh and frozen)
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes (from anywhere but Mexico)
  • Spinach (fresh and canned)
  • Apples
  • Green beans (fresh U.S.; canned and frozen from anywhere)
  • Pears
  • Cantaloupe
  • Tomatoes
  • Potatoes
The foods that got the lowest pesticide residue scores are:
  • Milk
  • Corn (canned and frozen)
  • Broccoli (from the U.S.)
  • Winter squash (from Honduras or Mexico)
  • Orange juice
  • Bananas
  • Canned peaches
  • Peas
  • Grapes (from Mexico)
  • Fresh green beans (from Mexico)
  • Single-serving pears (from Chile)
  • Apple juice
  • Grape juice
Why do fresh peaches get a caution if canned peaches get a green light? Processing a food (making it into juice and/or canning it, for example) sometimes makes it a lot safer to eat. That's because foods grown for processing don't need to be cosmetically appealing, so they normally aren't sprayed as much just before harvest. This gives more time for the residues that do remain to break down into safer components before the product reaches the market. Also, when foods are processed, they're often peeled, washed, or heated, which removes a lot of the pesticide residues.

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