By Bill Adler, MPH, RS
Technical Food Safety Consultant
Last week, I visited friends who live in very rural Winona County. They live on a piece of land I would describe as ‘God’s Country’ because it is coiffed with prairie meadows of natural flowers, tall grass, butterflies, and tall sweetcorn. Seriously, I expected Julie Andrews to fly out singing, “the hills are alive, with the sound of music..”. They have a big garden, a tall fence, and blueberries the size of nickels. But, being surrounded by farm fields, they also face pesticide carry-over.
On my way back, I spotted a low flying helicopter. It looked odd until I realized it had spray arms and it was a crop duster, getting ready to make a pass on an assigned field of soybeans. If you’ve never seen this done, it is pretty amazing to see them skim the crop. Even with corn 5 ft tall, they appear to be just a couple feet above the tassels. The prop wash, be it from a helicopter or small plane, causes the pesticide cloud to drift. Of course, most go on the crop below, but some carry over to surrounding areas. And if there is more than a slight wind, the cloud may drift quite a distance.
It would be ideal if all of our produce came from small plot growers. Alas, that’s not the case. A quick internet search will show you 70% of the fruits and vegetables we consume in winter months, come from outside the United States. Growers are restricted as to the chemicals they can use to produce a crop sold to the US market, but only a small, statistically significant percentage of samples are checked for chemical residues, so the potential is there for surface contamination to exist. Grocery stores and even the super supermarkets are under no obligation to clean produce, and they don’t. That part of food safety is left up to you and me, the consumers. You see where this is going, don’t you? If you don’t wash off the pesticides, nobody else is going to do it for you.
Herbicides and pesticides are oil-based. It’s how they stick to the plants and hang around long enough to keep our food looking good. Water alone doesn’t do much to dissolve or wash away natural or synthetic chemicals. You owe it to yourselves to clean the chemicals off your food before you eat it. Life’s Pure Balance fruit and veggie wash does this for you. At about 9 cents each time you mix it, the bank won’t be broken and your family will have produce that tastes good and is free of chemical contaminants.
Bill Adler is an expert in food safety, foodborne illnesses, and the food service inspection industry. He has conducted training for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) teaching local, state, and federal disease investigators as well as working with laboratory specialists and epidemiologists. Bill has worked extensively with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) to perform food service inspections and train local and state public health employees.