‘Pesticides’ is a general name for toxic substances used to destroy weeds (also specifically called ‘herbicides’), insects (also specifically called ‘insecticides’), fungus (also specifically called ‘fungicides’) and rodents (also specifically called ‘rodenticides’).
Pesticides are used virtually everywhere: from agricultural plots and dwellings to all kinds of public places.
While pesticides’ main function is to control damage of plants caused by pests and pestilence, and thus increase food production worldwide, they also pose significant long-term risks to our health.
A research, brought out in the Canadian Family Physician in 2007, reports a trustworthy link between pesticide exposure and breast, brain, kidney, lung, ovarian, pancreatic, prostate, and stomach neoplasms (cancers).
Another study of 2007 published in the same journal, links pesticide exposure to these chronic health effects: dermatologic, neurologic, reproductive and genotoxic. Furthermore, “long exposure to pesticides may increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease,” states a 2006 study published in the Annals of Neurology. Also, a 2013 report by the European Food Safety Authority, clearly notes that “exposure to pesticides can lead to leukemia in children and Parkinson’s disease.”
So, anyone who is around when pesticides are sprayed over plants, insects and so on, is at a higher risk of this dangerous exposure.
A 2015 report by the Environmental Working Group states that “nearly 2/3 of the 3,015 produce samples tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2013 contained pesticides.” According to this account, the foods highest in pesticide levels were: nectarines, strawberries, apples, peaches, grapes, sweet bell peppers, cucumbers, celery, spinach, cherry tomatoes, snap peas, and potatoes.
On the other hand, among the foods containing the least amount of pesticides were listed: sweet corn, avocados, pineapples, cabbage, frozen sweet peas, onions, kiwis, eggplant, grapefruits, cantaloupes, cauliflower, asparagus, mangoes, papayas, and yams.
Given the negative health effects of pesticide contact, it is important to take steps towards avoiding pesticide exposure. With just a little effort, you can change things for your personal health as well as for the environment!
Here Are 7 Simple Tricks To Clean The Pesticide Residue On Food:
1. Always Wash Produce Under Running Water
In the course of growing fruits and vegetables, most cultivators spray pesticides on the leaves and stems to protect the crop from luring damage. With this, a considerable amount of pesticides also accumulates on the outer surface of the grown fruits and vegetables.
The best option to remove the harmful toxic residue is to wash your produce underrunning warm water (rather than very cold or hot water) before putting it on your dish.
Make sure you don’t just quickly rinse and wipe the produce as the pesticides do not simply dissolve in the water. Actually, it is the action of rubbing produce under tap water that helps remove the residue.
Fruits like tomatoes, grapes, apples, strawberries, guava, blueberries, plums, peaches and pears, as well as veggies like eggplants, green beans and okra, can be cleaned properly using this easy method.
You should be thorough when washing the mentioned fruits and vegetables and, if needed, you can opt for 2-3 washings before eating, as harmful chemicals can linger in crevices of the foods that are hard to wash. In fact, you could also use a vegetable brush to help scrub the produce thoroughly.
Note: Along with raw fruits and vegetables, you need to thoroughly wash raw rice, legumes, beans and pulses 2-3 times before cooking.
2. Dry Produce With Paper Towels
After you have washed the stuffs, dry them thoroughly. This helps remove any remaining residue on the surface. But, instead of using your kitchen towels, use disposable paper towels as pesticide residue may collect on kitchen towels that aren’t washed right away and may get transferred to other foods, hands and dishes.
Paper towels are good for drying apples, strawberries, pears, guavas and tomatoes. For firmer fruits and vegetables, such as melons and root vegetables, a little scrubbing may do the job. For lettuce, and other types of cruciferous salad leaves, use a salad spinner to remove excess fluid. After drying fruits and vegetables, you can immediately store them without any danger of spoiling them due to over-moisture.
3. Remove The Peel Or Outer Layer Before Eating
Whenever it is possible, remove the peels of fruits and vegetables. Carrots, radishes, beetroot and potatoes, in particular, should be peeled to minimize the chances of eating harmful pesticides and fertilizer remains.
Through peeling, you can get rid of both systemic and contact pesticides that appear on the surface of the crops. It is also an effective method for produce treated with wax(like cucumbers and apples), as pesticide residue may be “trapped” underneath the wax.
Make sure to peel after washing the produce to prevent dirt and bacteria from transferring from the knife or peeler onto the fruit or vegetable insides. Wash again after peeling, and then safely consume.
For leafy greens like lettuce, kale or cabbage, discard the outermost leaves from the head. Some may consider it wasteful, but the outer layers have more pesticides than the inner layers.
4. Blanching And Boiling
Blanching and boiling are the two common cooking techniques that can help remove chemicals from the food. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology found that regularly treating foods with heat during preparation and preservation can help reduce pesticides to a great extent.
Heat treatments, which include pasteurization, boiling and cooking (depending on the nature of the food) help reduce pesticides due to evaporation and co-distillation. Before cooking green vegetables, soak them in warm water for a while to get rid of any leftover residue. Similarly, before blanching them, make sure to thoroughly pre-wash them.
In case of animal products, it is highly recommended to boil or cook them properly to remove pesticide residue from the animal fat tissues. Animal products often have even higher amounts of pesticide residue since animals feed on fodder, which is sprayed with pesticides. Also, when using chicken, mutton or beef, cut off the excess fat and skin.
And remember that even milk should be boiled at elevated temperatures to destroy persistent pesticide residue.
5. Use A Homemade Cleaning Spray
Many people prefer using cleaning sprays (or mild soapy water) to rinse their fruits and vegetables. But this is something you need to avoid at any cost!
Fruits and vegetables have tiny pores, and when exposed to dish soap or any other cleaning spray, the residue can get trapped in or get readily absorbed through the pores, and it becomes very difficult to rinse it off!
What you can do is make your own cleaning solution Here are 3 options for it:
1.Add ½ teaspoon of salt to a large bowl of water. Let the produce sit in the solution for a few minutes, then rinse with fresh water. Dry thoroughly using paper towels.
2. Fill a large bowl with water and add 1 teaspoon of white vinegar. Soak your fruits and vegetables in this solution for 10 minutes, and then wash them under tap water. Finally, dry out with paper towels.
3. Mix 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of baking soda. Dilute this mixture with 1 cup of water and transfer it to a spray bottle. Spray this solution onto your produce, wait for a few minutes, and wipe it off thoroughly using paper towels.
6. Eat Organic Produce Preferably
By buying organic, locally-grown and in-season produce, you’re getting less exposure to harmful chemicals.
You’ll find it easy to buy organic or unsprayed locally-grown produce from the market. Truly, you may have to spend a bit more money, but when it comes to your health, organic produce is simply the best choice.
A 2015 study published in the Environmental Health Perspectives reports that more frequent consumption of organic produce was associated with lower urinary dialkyl phosphate, which is higher when exposed to pesticides.
Note: Organic produce should also be washed thoroughly before consumption to get rid of any bacteria and other microorganisms that may have deposited on the surface at the point of handling and transport.
7. Plant Your Own Garden
To be positive that you are eating pesticide-free fruits and vegetables, you can plant your own garden and cultivate your own produce. A small backyard garden, or even terrace or vertical gardening, can provide enough produce for a family of four.
Most important, when you are engaged in gardening, you are aware of how you are growing your plants, and you can always use organic materials instead of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. In addition, gardening is a great hobby that brings along numerous health benefits: It can help you ‘keep your shirt on,’ improve your mood, strengthen your bones and muscles, and finally serve as a fun family activity!
However, even homegrown produce should be washed under running water to remove dust, dirt and other wind-blown contaminants that might have reached your ‘garden pearls.’