What is really on our Food - Fruits & Vegetables

Mtho Moyo
 November 10, 2014
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Food Safety

It has been proven time and time again that fruits and vegetables are good for humans. Some of these vegetables might not be the greatest tasting items on earth, but yes they are good for our health - an apple a day …..”


Before I turn all the health conscious into vegetarians let’s wait a minute! As healthy as the natural fruits and vegetables are, we humans in a bid to maximize on yields and hatred of insects (we call them pests) have altered the ecosystem. "How so", we might ask? You see we use pesticides in the farms and orchards and these pesticides have even entered our water system. Pesticides residues on crops are monitored through the use of Maximum Residue Limits (MRL), which are based on the analysis of the quantity of a given pesticide remaining on food product samples.


The effects of pesticides on human health:

Pesticides are designed to kill and because their mode of action is not specific to one species, they often kill or harm organisms other than pests, including humans. The world health organisation estimates that there are 3 million cases of pesticide poisoning each year and up to 220,000 deaths, primarily in developing countries. The application of pesticides is often not very precise, and unintended exposures occur to other organisms in the general area where pesticides are applied. Children, and indeed any young and developing organisms, are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of pesticides. Even very low levels of exposure during development may have adverse health effects. So, in short, there are no safe pesticides only safe use of pesticides.

Pesticide formulations contain both "active" and "inert" ingredients. Active ingredients are what kill the pest, and inert ingredients help the active ingredients to work more effectively. These "inert" ingredients may not be tested as thoroughly as active ingredients and are seldom disclosed on product labels. Solvents, which are inert ingredients in many pesticide formulations, may be toxic if inhaled or absorbed by the skin.

In July 2013 At least 20 children died and up to 30 more were seriously ill after eating free meals at a primary school in eastern India. The children, aged between six and 10, were fed rice and lentils at lunch at the government primary school in a small village in the state of Bihar. The food had been cooked in the school kitchen. Staff stopped serving the meal after children began vomiting. Early tests showed that the food in this latest case may have been contaminated with pesticides used on rice and wheat crops in the area. A senior government health official in Delhi said one possibility was that ingredients had been stored too close to dangerous chemicals.


"Washing before cooking would have made no difference," he told the Guardian. Another route of pesticide poisoning lies comes through a seemingly unlikely source – meat! When herbivores such as cows consume plants containing pesticide residues, some fat soluble components may be retained by the animal’s body and are stored in the fat tissues. With time, there is accumulation of these residues in the body. When humans consume meat such as beef, a phenomenon known as bioaccumulation occurs as the humans now accumulate these residues from the many that the herbivores have eaten. This bioaccumulation continues as you go up the food chain. This means that carnivores may have lethal levels as they lie at the top of the food chain, and humans also fall under carnivores! Even though bioaccumulation has not been known to seriously affect humans, over time the effects may be seriously detrimental. 

How can we reduce the detrimental effect of pesticides?
Starting with the Farming: Farmers need to ensure that good agricultural practices (GAP) are followed and that only authorised Pesticides are utilised in the recommended quantities and following the instructions. Storage of the pesticides as well as the empty containers needs to ensure that there is no risk of cross contamination. It goes without saying that the pesticides should never be close to the Packhouse. In addition it is a legal requirement that MRL tests are conducted.

In the processing environment pesticides should be stored and used in a way that will not cause cross contamination on the raw materials or finished product. It is paramount that all food companies conduct a food safety risk assessment based on HACCP principles. While this might not totally eliminate pesticide residues it will go a long way in reducing the risks posed by the chemical hazards.

So why not contact Entecom and we shall guide you through the food safety risk assessments and more!



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