The Best Way to Wash Your Produce By

Individuals who are aware of the many dangers of consuming chemical contaminants in food are often in an uphill battle of trying to find as many functional ways to avoid exposure in the food we eat. Although we cannot fix the broken regulatory system in place to protect us in the agricultural industry, we can do everything in our power to avoid exposure levels. Two questions that come up often in the health community about dodging chemicals in food are: How effective is washing produce to remove pesticides and herbicides? What is the best and safest way to clean your produce?

Researchers from the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station conducted tests and compared the results of the chemical residue levels left over after different methods of cleaning was conducted on a variety of produce. They used FIT Fruit & Vegetable Wash, Organiclean, Vegi-Clean, dishwashing soap, baking soda, vinegar, and tap water. The study found that pesticide residue was reduced for 9 out of the 12 pesticides tested for, and it showed nearly the same results for all cleansing methods used. Some of the removed pesticides weren’t water-soluble, meaning the pesticides weren’t being dissolved in water, but rather, mechanically pushed off the produce by the force of running water as well as the mechanical actions of rubbing. These results show that cleaning your produce enhances the removal of pesticides on plant foods, and using your hands to physically scrub the produce will help too. Soaking and rinsing in vinegar is one of the more popular ways to clean produce, but unfortunately, it has been shown to remove mineral and vitamin content, as well as leave an uninviting smell and taste behind on the produce itself. The results also show that there is no precise way to clean your produce but that whatever your preferred method of cleaning is and what works best for you, is encouraged. Cleaning your produce is just as important as sourcing your produce, and should definitely be a top priority in your kitchen.

Although washing your produce is very important, not all pesticide residues can be washed off. Pesticides found in fruit and vegetables contain different types of properties and are absorbed into the plant in different ways. Specific pesticides called systemic pesticides are soaked up into the plant’s roots by growing in contaminated soil. An example of a chemical that is systemic is glyphosate, one of the most widely used chemicals in the agicultural system. Systemic pesticides are a huge epidemic. The Environmental Protection Agency regulates pesticides in the US, and tends to hold each chemical “innocent until proven guilty”. Since there is not “enough” scientific research on the effects on systemic pesticides, they are still being used in the agricultural system today. In contrast, the European regulatory agency tends to be more cautious and has limited (and banned in some countries) systemic pesticides from the agricultural distribution system. The studies done on systemic pesticides include a wide range of negative health effects, not only on human health but has shown that these types of pesticides are environmentally damaging as well. Consuming pesticides has been shown to lead to cardiovascular diseases, hormone disruption, and forms multiple types of cancers. Systemic pesticides have been linked to colony losses in honeybees, worms, some birds, and other pollinator species.

The future of clean agricultural practices in the farming industry seems bleak and can be disheartening. Starting in your own backyard, we can learn about healthy alternatives to toxic pest control, and share these tips with your community around you. Growing your own food is a guarantee of chemical-free produce, but it is not always an option. Purchasing your produce at your local grocery store from farms that use ‘responsible sourcing’ is crucial. When farms use ‘responsible sourcing’, it means that they know what type of materials, including chemicals, are in their product. The farms that we purchase food from should know what types of pesticides are being used on their crops, and how much is being used on each crop. Get to know your farmers around you, and don’t be afraid to reach out and ask questions. In the meantime, we are left to do what we can do to avoid pesticide exposure. One of our goals at TestSharing is to bring transparency to these agricultural practices, as well as recommend trustworthy and safe food brands. There are many functional ways to avoid toxins in our food, and cleaning your produce is one of them. Continue to discuss with your loved ones and your community how to stay toxin-free and safe!

  • 15 February, 2019
Your Guide to Toxic Free Valentine’s Day Chocolate By

Valentines Day wouldn’t be the same without giving or receiving a delicious box of chocolates. Unfortunately, these candies are often filled with ingredients like artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives to keep them looking as shiny and appealing as they do. Some of these additives are high fructose corn syrup, monosodium glutamate (msg), hydrogenated oils, sulfites, and artificial sweeteners like aspartame. The cacao in chocolate-based candy has been shown to often be contaminated with two toxic heavy metals — lead and cadmium. How the heavy metals are getting into the cacao plant is complicated, but it boils down to the regulation in the manufacturing processes. Ironically, dark chocolate tends to have the heaviest concentration of heavy metals compared to milk chocolates because of the high concentration of cacao. Although it is fact that dark chocolate carries more health benefits than milk chocolates, sourcing your dark chocolate responsibly needs to become a big part of the decision making process to avoid toxic ingredients. Here is TestSharing’s list of chocolate brands we love, and brands we advise to avoid.

Chocolate Brands We Love

Smaller companies are regulated more closely, and commonly contain more genuine ingredients. The more local the company, the better, not only for your health but for the community and environment. Brands that are on the safer side include Whitman’s Candies Inc., Pascha, Endangered Species, Alter Eco, Taza, Green and Blacks, Lindt, Pure7, Theo, Chocolove, Scharffen Berger, Lily’s, Toblerone, and Wild Harvest.

Chocolate Brands to Avoid

The more commercial the company, the more unregulated the ingredients are, leading to higher contamination. Large commercial brands produce in massive quantities, so adding additives instead of real ingredients is often the case to cut costs. Brands that have higher contamination rates include: Hersheys, Kit Kat, Dove Chocolate, Nestle, Cadbury, Brookside, Mars, Newmans, Ritter Sport, and Ghirardelli.

Consuming the carcinogenic additives found is these types of candy can lead to heart disease, insulin resistance, and have even been linked to hyperactivity and attention deficit disorders in children. Although the Food and Drug Administration seems to disagree, there is no safe level of lead for children. Lead is used in manufacturing, mining, and in fossil fuels. Lead exposure is linked to a variety of neurological impairments, including learning disabilities, lower IQ levels, and even seizures. Cadmium is often found in manufacturing procedures like electroplating, which is the process of the breakdown other types of metals. Not only is cadmium a serious toxin, but it has also been linked to neurobehavioral impairment in children, and can cause damage to the liver, kidney, and bones in adults. Lead and Cadmium are two of the 420 toxins that TestSharing tests for ⸺ just use our app to scan the barcode of the chocolate you chose for your Valentine to make sure it’s clean and safe! Stay tuned: We will be testing a few of the most popular Valentines Day chocolates for pesticides and heavy metals. Gift your sweet toothed Valentine a box of safe and toxic-free chocolates made with love, not with chemicals.

  • 8 February, 2019
Pesticides: The Truth About The Dirty 12 and The Clean 15 By

The Pesticide Data Program (PDP) is a national pesticide residue monitoring program in the United States. The PDP produces the most comprehensive pesticide residue database and is known to monitor all sampling and reporting of pesticide residues in agricultural products in the US food supply. Although the system seems to have many holes and does not guarantee complete transparency in the chemicals found in food, the PDP is very important in limiting the number of pesticide residues. The PDP enables the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to assess dietary exposure, and provide guidance for the US Food and Drug Administration (USDA) to make informed decisions on the food products that are sold in the food industry. Every year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases two freshly updated lists, based on an analysis of the USDA’s Pesticide Data Program Report. These lists are a great source for helping consumers like us know when they should prioritize buying organic and when it is unnecessary. However, there are many different variables that seem to be getting ignored in these opposing lists, unfortunately.

The Dirty Dozen list consists of the top 12 foods that are more susceptible to toxic contamination in the agricultural food system, and have high traces of pesticide residue. It is encouraged to source food under this list responsibly and organically. The fruits and veggies that fell under this list in 2018 are: Strawberries, Spinach, Nectarines, Apples, Grapes, Peaches, Cherries, Pears, Tomatoes, Celery, Potatoes, and Sweet Bell Peppers.

The Clean Fifteen are the top 15 foods that are generally considered safe to buy inorganic according to EWG, and often do not contain as many toxic contaminants. The fruits and veggies that fell under this list in 2018 are: Avocado, Sweet Corn, Pineapple, Cabbage, Onion, Sweet Peas, Papaya, Asparagus, Mango, Eggplant, Honeydew, Kiwi, Cantaloupe, Cauliflower, and Broccoli.

One important factor that EWG is ignoring is that some pesticides are drastically more toxic than others. EWG’s scoring system considers all pesticides to be equal, and they don’t relate the pesticide amounts to known safety standards. The Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen are largely based on how many different pesticide residues are found on samples from each crop. What these lists don’t factor in is the relative safety or toxicity of the pesticides detected. In other words, a crop that has residues from seven pesticides could rank “dirtier” than a crop with three pesticides, even if those three pesticides have greater potential health risks.

Another important factor that keeps the health conscious community skeptical is that EWG seems to almost suggest that the Clean Fifteen list should be viewed as 100% safe. In reality, the Clean Fifteen is produce that have less of a chance of being as contaminated as the Dirty Dozen. It’s important to use the same safety protocols for produce that fall under the Clean Fifteen umbrella, including washing the produce efficiently and sourcing organically as much as possible. Foods that are categorized under the Clean Fifteen list does not mean it has a sticker of approval by the PDP, claiming they are free of the risks of contamination.

The bottom line is consumers like you and I want to have a choice on whether to avoid pesticide exposure at any level. Although the PDP and the USDA’s efforts to keep Americans safe from high levels of chemical residues in food is genuine, the limits themselves need to be thoroughly re-examined and reestablished. There is not yet a solution to the uncertainty that the regulatory system reflects, so consumers are left in the dark. We need to have access to professional lab tests on chemical contaminants in food that we consume every day for the safeguarding of our health. The TestSharing platform does exactly this, and understands the global need for transparency when it comes to food. TestSharing is one step in giving consumers like us the access we deserve to make our own decisions on what we want in our bodies.

  • 1 February, 2019