What you can Learn from a Label.

What you can Learn from a Label.

By Bill Adler, MPH, RS
Technical Food Safety Consultant

Yesterday, I met with a farming friend who has a couple of college degrees and a smattering of super intense biochemistry courses under his belt.  We spent some time talking about the Bayer payout of $9 billion dollars to the victims of Round-Up induced medical problems.  Part of our discussion was about what labels tell users about the potential problems there are when handling the product.  We both agreed that few people really understand what “Caution, Warning and Dangerous” mean and why it’s important to follow the use instructions on labels.

I may sound like a teacher, when I say “Been there, done that.”  My wife says I still wear the educator hat when I write on important product safety topics.  She’s right.  After years of educating people, it’s hard to walk away.  But it still amazes me what people don’t know about the products they use every day.  To that end, it’s been decided to educate our customers a little more about labels, so here goes.

“CAUTION” means multiple things based on circumstances.  Being cautious when picking a college or a sign that makes you aware that something that could cause a falling accident is in the area.

A “WARNING” label tells us there is a danger of serious harm or misfortune ahead.  It’s like a stop sign telling us to stop what we’re doing, look around for oncoming traffic and proceed accordingly.  Signs saying: “Warning: unauthorized entry is prohibited” or, “Warning: guard dog on-premises”  Or, “Warning: substance contains very flammable liquids–keep away from open flames” all give you the reason why your brain has to be engaged in these situations. 

A sign that says “DANGER” is a warning of injury, loss, or pain.  A dangerous situation provides risk, hazard, or some sort of peril. With the exception of road signs, it always defines what is in the product or situation that could injure you.  Examples might include, “DANGER, the product can cause severe skin reaction” is different than being cautious when working with a chemical.  In a nutshell, using CAUTION or being CAUTIOUS means being aware that there are situations that deserve your concentrated attention.  Seeing the word ‘caution’ should make you focus your attention and think about how to avoid whatever it is that could negatively affect you. An example would be a yellow “Caution – Wet Floor” sign, “Caution – Always use with protective gloves,” or “DANGER: May cause severe drowsiness.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency dictate what hazard words are used to notify users of the perils they face.

If you read the label on Earth’s Natural Fruit & Vegetable Wash, you’ll see a “WARNING”.  Not to worry, though. Our fruit and veggie wash is a citric acid-based cleaner that completely washes off the product, so there are no carryover chemicals to be worried about. The peril is that it could be an eye irritant. Accidents happen when measuring or pouring the cleaner into a bowl.  And if it does put a little water in your eye to flush it out.  All the ingredients have been granted GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) status by the EPA and the US Food and Drug Administration.  Just follow the directions and you’ll end up with produce that’s clean and tastes super good!


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.

Carry Over

“Carry-Over”

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.

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