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Your fruits and veggies contain pesticides: Here's how you clean them

Your fruits and veggies contain pesticides: Here's how you clean them

How to deal with pesticides in your food

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Nick Käseberg

Nick Käseberg

Food Editor at Kitchen Stories

75% of all apples in Germany contain pesticide residues, as do 90% of pears. This also applies to 85% of all herbs, berries and stone fruit, and even 45% of all pork. Pesticides are found in almost every agricultural product, from spices and dairy products to tea and coffee. According to these figures from the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety for 2022, the list of contaminated ingredients is long.

At Kitchen Stories, we handle lots of food every day, so we've done the research on toxic pollutants for you. Although there is no need to worry about your health, with this article you’ll gain a new perspective on your food!

In this three minute read, you'll learn which pesticides we regularly eat, how pesticides affect us and how to remove them from your food. Spoiler: according to this study, rubbing an apple on your sleeve is sadly not effective enough.

What are pesticides?

Pesticides or, in slightly friendlier terms, "Plant protection products" protect against fungal infestation, insects or other unwanted plants. Farmers spray these substances up to 30 times during one harvest phase. This is why the synthetic chemicals do not just stay on the skin of the apple or potato.

The pesticides have enough time to penetrate a few fractions of a millimetre under the skin - this means that just washing your produce can never be enough to remove all pesticides. We’ll share the best trick to deal with this in a second.

What surprised us: Meats also have pesticide residues, absorbed through animal feed. Unlike produce, we can’t wash these off.

Health Risks of Pesticides

So what happens if you eat too many of these chemicals? If you consume a lot of pesticides, you risk developing long-term illnesses such as cancer, asthma, type II diabetes, various allergies, and hormonal disorders. To reduce this risk, we have researched the best way to clean your food.

What is the most effective way to remove pesticides?

Research from the University of Massachusetts shows that soaking apples in a 1% baking soda and water solution for 15 minutes significantly reduces pesticide levels.  This method not only washes away but also breaks down the pesticides. The same method can be used with other fruits as well.

However, it’s important to note that some residues that penetrate beneath the skin remain, and peeling, while effective in removing pesticides, also strips away up to 70% of the vitamins from most types of fruit and vegetables.

Tricks & Solutions:

- Soak your fruits, veggies, or nuts in 10g of baking soda and 1 litre of water for 15 minutes. Ideally, wash your produce on the day you want to eat them, as this method also removes the natural protective layer. So the food will spoil faster than before.

-Buy organic. It sounds simple, but organic fruit and vegetables are not allowed to be treated with synthetic pesticides in the EU. They usually have over 100 times less residue. Three-quarters of all organic products were even free of residue after testing.

-Buy regional and seasonal. These foods have fewer pesticide residues since they don’t have to travel over long distances.

-Buy robust fruit and vegetables. Pesticide residues are less likely to be found in cabbage or carrots than in herbs and berries. For the herbs and berries, if you want to reduce your pesticide intake, buy those organic or grow them yourself. 

-Build your own small herb garden on the balcony or plant vegetables in your garden. Your own harvest is not only pesticide-free, but also tastes better than supermarket produce. See how you can start your own herb garden here.

In general, we will probably never avoid pesticides. However, in the EU, less than 0.01 mg/kg is specified as the maximum limit for pesticide residues and the majority of all foods tested are under this limit. This amount is considered harmless to us. Still, you should not just ignore such chemical substances and make sure to keep them in mind when shopping.

Are you already careful with pesticides? Let us know in the comments!

Published on April 20, 2024

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