Environment pollution has reached our food plates. The food that we consume has many toxins, which are either added to the plants at the cultivation stage or added during their processing stages. In either cases, poisonous substance enters our body and can cause serious health risks, ranging from simple diarrhoea to even cancer.
In the early stages of human habitation, people ate whatever was available and then later learnt to grow their own food, which led to development of human colonies and exponential growth of human population. The population has increased to such an extent that providing the very basic food to all is evolving as the biggest problem and different short-cuts are being taken to increase the yield and feed all. But, this props another question- are we compromising on the safety of the food in order to maintain the ever increasing demand? The answer doesn’t come as a surprise for the aware consumers of today.
Several tests have indicated that the synthetic chemicals found in these ingredients have far reaching health effect and some are even carcinogenic substances. In a study conducted by the Government of India’s Food Safety and Standards Authority of India in the year 2013, it was found that certain common food items contain banned pesticides, whose quantities were around 1,000 times more than their permissible limits.
Toxins contaminating Food
According to the US FDA, following are the key categories of food toxins that contaminate and adulterate our food:
- Pesticides: These are added to the plants at the farm level to prevent the growth of crop-destroying pests. The farmers used chemical based pesticides as they are said to have higher efficacy on the pests. However, many of these chemicals do not get washed away and are absorbed by the plants, which are later consumed by humans. Pesticides’ exposure increases chances of ADHD in children. Organic food can reduce the intake of harmful pesticides, weedicides, etc.
- Metals: Highly toxic metals like Arsenic, Lead and Mercury are proven to pose serious health risk and the worst thing about these is that these are all naturally existing substance, that can reach our guts through food grown in polluted soil and water.
- Chemical contaminants: Chemical contaminants are most dangerous as these are not produced by nature, but by man and sometimes by their conscious efforts. The US FDA has identified acrylamide, benzene, dioxins and PCBs, ethyl carbamate, furan, perchlorate, and radionuclides as chemical contaminants in food. The big question is that why would an aware customer buy products that have chemicals. The answer is that these chemicals just sneak into our food through two possible routes: as pesticides or as a hidden ingredient in form of added artificial flavor, artificial or nature identical colors, synthetic preservatives, synthetic emulsifiers.
- Artificial colors added to colas, candies, ice creams, etc. contain a potentially carcinogenic chemicals. Though such few colors are approved by US FDA, but they are found above safe permissible limit in several well-known food brands globally.
- Artificial sweeteners like High-fructose corn syrup are used in many food items to improve taste. Such ingredients lead to sugar addiction resulting in the epidemic of obesity.
- Preservatives and Antioxidants are used to increase the shelf life of food products. High consumption of processed food may increase the risk of stomach cancer or disrupt hormones.
The government needs to realize that food is the most basic requirement of all people and presence of any toxins can have a widespread health issue. Small children consuming toxic food will develop into mentally dull or illness prone adults and such adults cannot be asset to any country.
In order to safeguard the future of the country, the government should make stringent rules concerning safety of the food. There should be laws to uphold the interest of the customers. The government should have all-ingredient listing labelling system. There should also be an incentive to farmers for non-chemical agro-ecological approaches to cultivation The government should create equal opportunity for both organic and chemical agriculture. There should be more research on organic agriculture.
In an interview with a TV channel, Dr. G. V. Ramanjaneyulu, Director of the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, has emphasized the need to move focus to organic farming and the government’s role for making it feasible.
- Plates loaded with pesticides: Survey shows fruit, vegetables are high on chemical content, Times of India, 8 November 2013
- Foodborne Illness & Contaminants, US FDA