Organic food does not necessarily mean unpolluted food! It simply means that one type of food pollution source (e.g. pesticides/herbicides/insecticides with which un-organically-grown food is treated) is eliminated by growing the food organically. However, as discussed when talking about causes of food pollution, there are many other sources of food pollution that can still affect organically-grown food. Such sources involve first of all bacterial pollution to which organically grown food is more heavily subjected (the occurrence of bacterial infestation in organically grown food may actually be higher because of the lack of pesticides / insecticides / herbicides). Additionally, any pollutants from the soil, water and/or air with which food comes in contact may contaminate the organically-grown food, as can do food processing, packaging, and handling. Thus, always keep this in mind and if possible inquire where the organically grown food comes from (for example, if it was produced in the U.S., the chances that it is not polluted are higher than if it was imported).
If you live in a country with strict food safety regulations, such as the U.S., stick with the food produced in that country, instead of consuming imported food. For example, if you live in the U.S., try as much as possible to consume food produced in the U.S.! This is because only a small percentage of imported food is inspected; consequently, there is also a higher risk that the food is polluted, because the same food safety rules do not apply anymore, even if the imported food is sold in a country with strict food safety regulations. In fact, some statistics point out that less than 1% of imported fresh produce shipments were inspected at the U.S. borders in recent years.
Tips to Minimize Food Contamination
- Dietary supplements are not necessarily checked for the presence of pollution. Try to take your vitamins from food from well-trusted suppliers and minimize your consumption of dietary supplements. Remember, exposure to small amounts of pollution every day may not be easily noticeable, yet it might develop into a serious health issue in time. When uncertain, the less you are exposed to potential causes of food contamination, the better.
- Improper food handling at restaurants, fast foods etc. may pollute an otherwise healthy food. Recently, a woman sued McDonald for having consumed a coffee contaminated with human feces and other contaminants! The moral? Why introduce another potential factor for food pollution (through improper handling by others), when already there are so many other factors we cannot control? Thus, it is safer to minimize eating out - and also more economical!
- Food pollution risks are higher in fish because fish are exposed to a large variety of pollutants that may be present in waterways and sediments all over the globe. This is why it is recommended that pregnant women, for example, do not consume certain species of fish.
- Water pollution – food and water are tightly connected, in the sense that water pollution may reflect in the food grown in areas with contaminated water or irrigated with contaminated water. In general, irrigation water is not subjected to the same scrutiny and standards that apply to tap water. Thus, the risk of polluting the food exists. For homegrown food, try to use tap water for irrigation and also test the quality of the garden soil.
- Cross-contamination of food through cutting boards – never use the same cutting board for raw meat and salad! This is because various pathogens from raw meat may cross-contaminate and pollute your salad. While you cook the meat and thus get rid of pathogens, you may not cook the salad too and thus may get sick with a microbial infection!
- Organophosphate pesticides and insecticides may cause serious problems in children and infants! An environmental research group has recently pointed out that many children in the U.S. are exposed to unsafe doses of organophosphate pesticides/insecticides from food consumption. Pesticides based on organophosphates may affect the nervous system and are actually derivatives of nerve gases developed by Nazi Germany. The problem is quite serious, considering how much these toxic chemicals are used. Basically, organophosphate pesticides are used in one-fifth of U.S. farmland with corn and cotton, while organophosphate insecticides are used for mosquito control, with household and garden uses. Examples of children’s food with unsafe levels of organophosphates include, but are not limited to: pears, peaches, and apple juice.
- Irradiated food may affect human health! It was already shown that animals fed with irradiated food suffered the following effects: premature death, cancer, tumors, mutations, immune system failure, and stunted growth. The chemical 2-ACBs was linked to cancer development in rats and genetic damage to human cells. Thus, any irradiated food should be labeled and you may want to think twice before consuming it, if any alternatives exist.
- Apart from food, soft drinks were shown to contain a series of pollutants, such as benzene, which is a proven carcinogen. Benzene was detected in a series of soft drinks, including Safeway Select Diet Orange Crush, Pineapple AquaCal Strawberry, Flavored Water Beverage Crystal, Light Sunrise Classic Orange Giant, or Light Cranberry Juice Cocktail. Polluted soft drinks may contribute to osteoporosis, diabetes, and even cancers!