Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What's on Your Food?

I first began to worry about the toxins we were being exposed to around the age of 13. It all started with personal care products. The first to go was my antiperspirant because of the aluminum. Then it was toothpaste with fluoride, followed by the shampoo due to sodium laurel sulfate. I became very concerned over the effect these toxins were having on our immune system. Slowly I began replacing the products I used with safer ones.

Eventually, my concern expanded to cover what was in our food as well. I started avoiding anything with aspartame, MSG, food colorings, preservatives and so forth. It was relatively easy to start avoiding these items as their ingredients were usually listed on the label, albeit sometimes hidden under another name. As the list of ingredients to avoid grew, I realized it was simply healthier to avoid convenience food altogether. With the discovery of food allergies in our family, that decision became even easier. Today, we buy very little that doesn't come from the produce isle of the supermarket and when the farmer's market is in full swing, we try not to visit the grocery store at all.

While I was at a strawberry U-pick last year, I asked about what chemicals they applied to their berries. They told me of the fungicides that they reluctantly used, but that it was essentially the same as what the supermarket used on their produce. It never occurred to me that the watery spray used to keep produce fresh also includes fungicides! I don't know whether or not this is true, but it definitely had me thinking.

At a U-pick or farmer's market, I can ask the owner directly how their food is grown and then choose whether or not to purchase it. I can choose to avoid packaged food because I can read the ingredients and decide what is healthy or not. But, when we buy produce from a supermarket, who do we ask for the list of inputs on the apple or broccoli? We don't know what kind of pesticides or herbicides or fungicides have been applied or what the health or environmental consequences of those inputs are.

If you are like me and live in a small community, organic food isn't always an option. The organic selection is poor and undependable and sometimes non-existent. My healthy options are to either grow my own produce or purchase it from a reputable farmer in the area. However, if I do not plan properly, I have no choice but to purchase conventionally grown produce and hope that it won't make my family sick.

Photo by Simon Howden
Just imagine if conventionally grown produce had to label all the chemical inputs used in growing. I think we'd all start demanding more be grown organically. Or, maybe more of us would simply opt out and grow our own. To find out what's on your food, check out the widget on the side of the page.

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