Practical ways to reduce your exposure to food chemicals

Pesticides, herbicides, hormones and antibiotics are often used in farming to boost production. This boost in production makes finding inexpensive fruits, vegetables, and meats easier, but it also exposes us to these potentially harmful chemicals.  Here are some practical ways to help reduce your exposure to these food chemicals.

Practical ways to reduce your exposure to food chemicals

Practical ways to reduce your exposure to food chemicals

  • Grow your own vegetables and fruit – it's the most reliable way of knowing that no harmful substances have been used in their production.
  • Purchase produce from farmers' markets or from roadside farm stands. Even when buying from these places, though, ask vendors about what chemicals were used, if any. While some farmers are not certified organic, they may classify themselves as 'almost organic', using natural fertilizers and minimal amounts of chemicals responsibly.
  • Quiz greengrocers and produce section managers about their produce. However, if they buy through central cooperatives or markets, they may not know whether chemicals were used.
  • Wash all fruit and vegetables thoroughly. Don't use soap.
  • Remove the outer leaves of vegetables and peel non-organic vegetables and fruit to significantly reduce pesticide intake.
  • Hormones and antibiotics can be stored in animal fat. Choose lean meat and trim any visible fat from meat before cooking.
  • Cook meat, chicken and fish thoroughly and eat cooked vegetables as well as raw. Cooking helps break down chemical residues.
  • Eat legumes and soy products to reduce exposure to the hormones and pesticides used on livestock.
  • Eating a range of foods is better for us nutritionally and reduces the likelihood of exposure to a single pesticide.

Genetically modified crops

Genetically modified (GM) products are created when microbiologists insert the genetic material from one species into the DNA of another, with the aim of producing improved characteristics, such as resistance to insect pests and pesticides, or better flavour or nutrient content.

The risks associated with the consumption of GM foods over the long term aren't yet known, as GM crops have only been available for a limited time. Because it's difficult to keep GM varieties from pollinating non-GM crops, there are growing fears that GM crops may change agricultural biodiversity and create dangerous 'super' pests, weeds and viruses.

Here are some common GM crops and the foods they're usually used for:

  • Canola: Canola oil
  • Corn/maize: Corn oil, corn starch/cornflour, corn syrup, maltodextrin (for desserts and sweets)
  • Cottonseed: Blended vegetable oils, snack foods
  • Potatoes: Potato chips
  • Soy: Soy oil, soy flour, soy protein, soy lecithin, soy sauce, soy milk, tofu, miso
  • Sugar beets: Sweetener (sucrose) for drinks, desserts and sweets

Keep these practical tips and this information on genetically modified products in mind to help you reduce your exposure to food chemicals.

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