Farmers Market: Health And Nutrition
We live to roam the farmers markets. There’s something so inviting about buying fresh food straight from the producer and what’s not to love about a leisurely walk through an open air market on a bright, Spring day?
Personally, it takes me back to my childhood growing up in Egypt where my grandfather, Giddou in Arabic, would take me by the hand and lead me through the fruit and vegetable vendor stalls in the open air market of Alexandria in pursuit of the day’s bounty. Finger-slim, purple aubergines, buxom, crimson tomatoes and verdant, leafy herbs piled high among an array of fragrant, earth colors sat side by side, vendors hawking their prized produce to the sea of shoppers with their mesh carry-alls in hand. Giddou would smell, squeeze and prod at the picks before him to choose the finest he could find, haggling with the vendors for the best price. We’d proudly display our farm fresh assortment to the rest of the family, which would inevitably come together with fresh garlic, vinegar and olive oil for our mid-day feast.
What happens to our food supply between the field and the fork? Most food has not only traveled thousands of miles, it’s been touched by dozens of hands and doused with who-knows-what, leaving the cleanliness of our meals questionable.
Rinsing with water alone is not enough to ensure your produce is as safe for your family’s food supply as it should be. Pesticides, waxes, organic residues and surface contaminants can wreak havoc on your health.
Food production and distribution methods have changed over the years, leading to new safety issues. For
example, to optimize crop yields many farmers increasingly turn to pesticides to control undesired insects,
weeds, rodents, fungi and bacteria. Antibiotics are added to animal feed to counteract the growing
number of bacteria. However, these bacteria are becoming resistant to the antibiotics. These super
strains of bacteria grow inside animals and can be passed on to humans through tainted meat and
eggs. Fruits and vegetables can become contaminated when they are shipped or prepared with animal
products harboring bacteria.
The EPA also approves every pesticide before its use on foods, monitors pesticide residues in foods,
and surveys which such foods children consume in greater amounts. Some pesticides are rated by the EPA as known or possible carcinogens.
But the risk from pesticides is still uncertain, not thoroughly studied, and worrisome to consumers. It
makes sense that we should try to reduce our exposure to them, but how do we do this? Data from the USDA’s Pesticide Data Program (PDP) show 90 percent or more of conventionally produced apples, peaches, pears and strawberries have pesticide residues. Substances such as Azinphos methyl, a dangerous neurotoxin banned in Europe , commonly found on apples. There is growing scientific consensus that even very small doses of pesticides can adversely affect people, especially during the vulnerable periods of in utero and early childhood development when organ systems are maturing most quickly, when toxic defenses are least established, and when early programming of risks for chronic disease later in life takes place. Exposure to pesticides is linked to chronic diseases including Parkinson’s Disease, child and adult cancers and neurodevelopmental. The bottom line is many pesticides are water-resistant to help withstand the elements, so rinsing them under water just won’t get the job done.
Dr. Dad Shawki Ibrahim is a Ph.D. Environmental Health Sciences and M.S. Agriculture. Mareya Ibrahim, Chief Executive Mom of www.eatcleaner,com is a natural foods industry veteran and food safety education advocate based in Orange County
Think Before You Bite