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How to Avoid Excess Food Chemicals


Updated February 07, 2014

Much of the food in the grocery store has at least one type of chemical in or on it. While food chemicals should all be safe in the small amounts normally ingested, it's understandable why a growing number of people would like to avoid them.

Wash your fruits and vegetables. Most of the produce you buy still has the covering (skin, peel, husk, shell etc.) intact because those coverings help protect and preserve the perishable parts inside. Fruits and vegetables that have been exposed to chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers are apt to have some residues of those chemicals on their surfaces.

Washing your fruits and vegetables before you eat them will help remove some of the chemical residues and, of course, is also important to remove bacteria. You should wash all fresh with water (no soap), even the produce with inedible skins like bananas, oranges and melons.

Go organic. Organic crops are grown without chemical pesticides or herbicides so organic fruits and vegetables won't have the chemical residues that regular produce has. Organic meats are produces from animals that are given hormones and are not fed non-organic feed.

Always look for the United States Department of Agriculture organic labels. Foods that bear the 100 percent organic label are made with all organic ingredients. Foods that are Organic need to be made with 95 percent organic ingredients, while foods with Made with Organic Ingredients on the label may only be 70 percent organic.

Read food labels. Packaged foods must have the ingredients posted on the package. Look for artificial food colorings and dyes that have a number like FD&C Green No. 3. Other chemical additives include BHT and BHA, monosodium glutamate (MSG), and artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and saccharin.

Trim the fat. Pesticides and other chemical residues are often stored in animal fat. Trim fat from meats and choose non-fat milk. You can also buy organic milk and BGH-free milk that comes from cows that have not been given bovine growth hormone.

Stay away from BPA. Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical compound found in some hard plastic products such as baby bottles, water bottles and hard plastic cookware. Buy products that are BPA-free, or choose products made from other materials, like glass. You also should avoid microwaving foods in plastic containers that are not labeled as microwave-safe.

Use a water filter. Tap water is safe for drinking and for cooking, however you can remove chloride or other impurities with an in-home water filter or water filter pitcher. You can buy filtered water in the grocery store, too, either in new sealed bottles or from a fill-it-yourself dispenser. With the dispenser, you can use new bottles or bring in reusable bottles.


Cornell University, Sprecher Institute for Comparative Cancer Research. "Consumer Concerns About Pesticides in Food." Accessed August 4, 2010. http://envirocancer.cornell.edu/FactSheet/Pesticide/fs24.consumer.cfm.

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