Does our food contain pesticides?

It is important to note that all foods, especially fruits and vegetables, contain pesticide residues. Although the amount of these does not pose a health risk to consumers, we can do more to reduce intake.

Does our food contain pesticides?
What are the pesticide residues in our food? Photo by Randy Fath / Unsplash

All foods, especially fruits and vegetables, contain pesticide residues. Although the amount of these does not represent a health risk for consumers, we can do more to reduce their intake, explained Pedro de Jesús Bastidas Bastidas, an academic at the Center for Research in Food and Development (CIAD).

There are different techniques for analyzing pesticide residues in food and the Center has liquid chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry, which in a single run can detect about four hundred active ingredients used as pesticides.

One of the reasons why pesticides are widely dispersed is that compounds that do not have a focal application are used to control crop pests; that is, it is estimated that of the one hundred percent of the product that is sprayed on plants, only one percent is necessary to attack and exterminate the pest, since the invading insect or pathogen is not held captive.

Because of this, a large number of pesticides remain in the fruit and biomass (foliage), some fall to the ground or water or are carried by the wind several kilometers away; in fact, pesticide residues have been found at the poles of the planet.

Pesticide residues also reach other foods indirectly, such as cattle meat (through the cereals and fodder consumed by the animals, bioaccumulating in their organism) and, subsequently, reach consumers through their by-products, such as milk, cheese, meat, and fat, among others.

Unfortunately, in the current era it is not possible to get rid of pesticides completely, because, although organic agriculture is a practice with multiple benefits for human health and the sustainability of the planet, it is very limited in the face of the global demand for food. For this reason, we must focus on learning to coexist and to know the ecological function of the insects that attack crops.

The expert from the Pesticide Residue Analysis Laboratory of the National Laboratory for Food Safety Research emphasized that the productive sector needs to adopt integrated management of pests, where the last resort is the use of chemical compounds, since strategies such as the use of natural predators, manual pruning, etc., are recommended first,

On the positive side, there is nothing to be alarmed about, since fruits and vegetables marketed in Mexico and other parts of the world are closely monitored by health authorities, to ensure that the presence of pesticides is within the permitted limits and does not affect the health of the consumer, this through the certification of good agricultural practices (GAP) and the observance of the Official Standard NOM-082-SAG-FITO/SSA1-2017, which regulates the Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) that food produced in Mexico may contain).

Finally, unlike the population of the United States and Europe, who take for granted that the food from the supermarket is already clean and disinfected (indeed it is), Mexicans have the habit of washing fruits and vegetables before consuming them, which helps to remove pesticide residues from the peel, so he urged to continue this practice using water and dish soap.