(article by Emily Main)
Convenience at a Cost
In a perfect world, you would have all the time and resources you need to make everything you eat by hand. But who are we kidding? Between work and social obligations, few among us can even come close to the Donna Reeds of yore. Thus, to the packaged-food aisles we go. But are you putting your health at risk every time you reach for something with an ingredients list?
Every five years, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducts a Total Diet Study to determine whether various processed foods are meeting federal standards for pesticide residues, just as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) does with pesticides on produce. Although the foods tested meet federal safety guidelines, they still contain unwanted and unhealthy levels of pesticides. So if you want to keep your health and your sanity, stick with USDA-certified organic versions of the following foods.
Insects love grains, especially those stored in dark grain mills. So wheat, rye, and other bread ingredients are commonly sprayed with insecticides to keep the bugs away, particularly a class called organophosphates, which have been linked to IQ problems and ADHD in children. The FDA regularly detected levels of the organophosphate malathion on most of the bread and other flour-based products (flour tortillas, crackers, white bread, and such) it sampled. In addition to harboring fewer pesticides, organic bread is more likely to contain fewer refined ingredients, according to a 2012 analysis by The Organic Center, a nonprofit research institution. The nonprofit’s analysis found that nonorganic breads contained more preservatives, thickeners, and other refined flours and additives than organic loaves.
It’s not just fumigants on wheat-based ingredients that can plague conventional cereals. Nonorganic cereals are almost guaranteed to contain genetically
The USDA has detected 35 different pesticide residues on fresh tomatoes, so it might not be a big surprise that the FDA regularly detected pesticides in tomato sauces, as well as in other tomato-based processed foods like ketchup and salsa. The most common, 2-chloroethyl linoleate, is linked to nerve and liver damage.
Because they’re another potential source of wheat, the pretzels and crackers tested were found to contain organophosphate pesticide residues, just like bread. Graham crackers, saltines, and butter crackers were particularly guilty. Potato chips were also likely to contain a liver- and nerve-damaging pesticide called chlorpropham used on safflower and soybeans, the source of the oils in which some chip brands are fried.
It’s always a good idea to avoid canned foods of any kind, organic or otherwise, because the cans are lined with a harmful chemical called bisphenol A, which has been associated with hormonal problems, heart disease, diabetes, and a whole host of other chronic diseases. But chili in particular harbors a variety of pesticide residues, according to the FDA’s testing. The ingredients, including tomatoes and beans, are sprayed heavily.
For those nights when you need a quick food fix, make sure it’s organic. Nonorganic frozen burritos and lasagnas were found to harbor organophosphates and pesticides in the same class as DDT. Another benefit of organic? Organic frozen dinners contain lower levels of sodium than your average Hungry-Man.
(article by Emily Main)