Monday, July 20, 2009

Food Part 2: Harmful Residues in Food

Abe V Rotor

The other kind of food poisons is man-made or man-induced. The most prevalent is farm chemicals. Modern pesticides are continuously redesigned to cope with increasing resistance of insects and pathogens. As a result, their residues on food and the environment have likewise increased tremendously. This is even worst in the case of systemic pesticides which penetrate deep into the innermost part of the plant. This happens when the poisons are absorbed and carried throughout the plant's body via its sap. Any insect that feeds on the sap is killed.

Among the first chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides invented was DDT. It was introduced in the 1940s as final answer to the malaria problem. By controlling mosquitoes, spread the disease was stopped. It is true that DDT is highly effective not only against mosquitoes but other insects, as well, that its inventor received the Nobel Prize. It was however, discovered years later that it has a residue that is both persistent and cumulative, and transferred up through the food chain. Thus, from the mosquito, the DDT is passed on to the fish, to animals that feed on the fish, and ultimately to man. In spite of the fact that it has long been banned there are still traces of DDT residues found in many places, showing either its persistence, or its illegal manufacture and distribution, or both.

Let's take a few examples of banned pesticides. The deadliest is Dioxin. Worldwide, its manufacture is prohibited. Even less dangerous pesticides are banned, such as arsenic and cyanide. This is true also to the fumigant methyl bromide, and a number of rodent poisons.

The molluscicides, Brestan and Aquatin, have been replaced with safer brands. These chemicals were intended to control the golden snail (Pomacea caniculata), but found to cause skin and nail allergies. Reports of women farm workers absorbing the poison through the genital tract were investigated and found to be true. The golden kuhol, which was introduced into the country as a livelihood and a delicacy, has turned maverick, now a pest to rice farmers. Today, more than one million hectares of irrigated ricelands are reportedly being infested by kuhol annually. Ironically, the golden kuhol did not prosper as a food source.

Food Poisoning

There was the case of cheesedog poisoning in Rizal Province recently. Scores of children, teenagers and adults attending a party were rushed to the nearest clinics and hospitals. Fortunately, all of the victims fully recovered.

Cases of typhoid, hepatitis and gastrointestinal diseases have been on the rise because of unsafe water. In Tokyo and nearby cities Echesichia coli, a common gastrointestinal pathogen spread to an epidemic level. It was controlled only after banning the suspected source – hamburger.

How clean is clean? The scientist Lister discovered the prin¬ciple of aseptic cleanliness. Listerine, a mouthwash brand was named after him. Florence Nightingale, the founder of the nursing profession applied Lister's principle in hospital manage¬ment. But we often exaggerate cleanliness. We use a variety of cleaning agents such as detergents, pesticides, deodorants, air fresheners, and cosmetics. Rub-on mosquito repellant is carcinogenic, so with Chlorine, which we add to our drinking water and swimming pools. Greenpeace, a vocal environment vanguard organization has raised a "Chlorine Kills" campaign against the excessive use of the chemical. Sodium fluoride mistaken for baking powder or wheat flour is extremely harmful, yet fluoride used is in small amounts in toothpaste to help keep our teeth strong and healthy.

We are unwittingly introducing into our bodies materials which may be more harmful than the germs we are trying to control.

There was a story of a boy whose anemic condition had for so long remained a puzzle, until one morning his doctor dropped by, and while having coffee with the family, exclaimed, "Why, I know now why your son is sick!" He observed that the gold lining of the coffee cup was being worn out. The boy was slowly being poisoned by the gold paint. The fine gold rim was actually painted with lead as paint medium.

How many of our utensils at home contain harmful metals? Do not cook food with vinegar in aluminum pots. Do not use utensils plated with Antimony or Cadmium. Remember that plastic containers react with acidic food. The microwave oven is not as safe as the conventional oven. There are scientists who believe that microwave triggers radiation, which may be harmful to the body in the long run. In spite of this warning, the use of the microwave oven, because of its convenience, has increased.
Here is an outline of other food contaminants and additives, which are reported to be the cause of many ailments and death cases.

1. Seeds of ipil-ipil ground with coffee cause falling hair. It is also a growth retardant due to its mimosin content.

2. Seeds of papaya when dried can pass for black pepper. Papaya fruit contains healthful papain. No one knows the effects the seed has on the body.

3. Vetsin or mono-sodium glutamate retards mental and skeletal growth, especially in children. Vetsin may cause drowsiness after eating. To some people the effect is palpitation and irritability. Burglars silence dogs with pandesal treated with vetsin. An overdose may lead to death.

4. Formalin is used to extend the shelf life of fish. The malpractice is to inject it in large fishes, or mixed it with the ice water for small ones. Formalin is a strong poison. It is used in embalming. Formalin was detected in buko juice, which led to the decline of the once flourishing local industry.

5. Cyanide in vegetables was first detected in Benguet when the farmers discovered that the water coming from mine tailings had insecticide properties. It was later traced to cyanide compounds used in the mining industry. Cyanide is a very strong poison. It is used in gas chamber in the foreign countries to execute criminals.

6. Nitrate or salitre is the chief preservative and food color used in tocino, longaniza and corned beef. One can easily detect it in the urine by analysis and smell. Salitre is known to be a carcinogen.

7. Food dyes make food colorful, but dangerous. This writer personally experienced eating sampaloc (tamarind) candy treated with jubos, a shoe dye. It caused a false alarm when he noticed the color of his urine blood red.

8. Aspartame has taken the place of saccharine, the original diet sugar. There has been a decline in the intake of diet soft drinks in the US due to unexplained side effects, ranging from high blood pressure to allergic reactions. Why is decaffeinated coffee no longer as popular as before? Will fatless fat ever get FDA's nod? This is a kind of fat, which we eat but will not make us fat.


Reference: The Living with Nature Handbook, AVR, UST Publishing House Manila

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