Many produce items are incorrectly labeled by grocery stores. In particular, standards for country of origin labeling seem haphazard at best, with ‘Product of Canada’ signs being substituted for whatever is the actual country of origin. Though this might not seem like a big deal, many countries have far less stringent standards for pesticide use than we do here in Canada.
This is particularly important when it comes to permeable produce such as peppers, tomatoes, avocados, and mangoes to name just a few. When these types of fruits and vegetables are sprayed with pesticides, the pesticide not only remains on the surface or skin of the produce, but goes all the way through into the ‘meat’ of the entire fruit or vegetable. While the health risks of various pesticides may vary depending on a given food’s country of origin, the best strategy to avoid harmful pesticides is to choose organically grown produce, especially for the most permeable fruits and vegetables.
If your budget can’t support an all-organic diet, keep the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists in mind to set your organic food purchasing priorities. The lists provide information about levels of pesticide residue found on conventionally grown produce.
Be sure to read labels carefully, and report any discrepancies to a store’s management. It is often easier to choose with confidence when shopping at local organic health food stores rather than big corporate chain stores.
One final tip: don’t forget that product codes can provide valuable information. Product codes are typically 4 or 5 digit numbers, but the most important digit is the first one. If it starts with a 9, this is an organic product: highly recommended! If it starts with an 8, this is a GMO (Genetically Modified Organism): avoid like the plague. If it starts with a 3 or 4, it means it’s not organic and is not a GMO but has most likely been sprayed with pesticides, and has been coated with waxes to preserve it’s long transport and shelf life.
Alicia Phillips is a Holistic Nutritionist and can be reached at (506) 260-0927 or by visiting www.completebodynutrition.ca.