FDA To Start Testing for Glyphosate in Food Products

GlyphosateThis week the FDA announced it will start testing certain foods for residues of the world’s most widely used weed killer, glyphosate.1 It appears the FDA is finally bowing to pressure from the public regarding safety concerns.  Private groups, citing suspected risks to human health, have gone ahead and done their own testing in recent years and claim they have found glyphosate residues in breast milk, honey, infant formula, wheat flour, soy sauce, and a host of other foods.

But what is glyphosate exactly? According the National Pesticide Information Center, Glyphosate (also called Round-Up) is an herbicide that kills most plants by preventing specific enzyme pathways that are necessary for growth.2 Monsanto, who owns glyphosate, has also made genetically modified plants (coined “Round-Up Ready) that are resistant to the herbicide, thereby allowing the crops to grow while the weeds and pests die.

While this seems like a miracle formulation, the concern is on the safety of using this product on plants that are meant for human consumption.  Countries around the world have been asking this questions while our own government seems to have been rather silent on the issue.

In fact, many countries have already banned glyphosate use or are in the process of evaluating the evidence in consideration of doing so. Some of these countries include Germany, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Norway, The Netherlands, Sri Lanka, Bermuda and Russia. They cite evidence linking glyphosate use to various detrimental health effects.3 In 2015 the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic in humans” based on a review of the research.4

Given the worldwide concerns, it is interesting that the FDA has not tested for glyphosate before. They routinely test foods for a vast array of pesticides to carefully monitor the safety of our food supply. Glyphosate testing has always been skipped, claiming it is “too expensive and not needed to protect public health.”5 It is unclear how they came to that conclusion concerning our collective health, but it seems they are finally changing their tune.

The concern, however, is whether the FDA will do a fair and thorough job of testing these foods. Given its reluctance to test glyphosate in the first place coupled with probable heavy pressure from Monsanto lobbyists, one naturally wonders whether the findings will show anything of concern. It seems for now all we can do is wait and see.

In the meantime, while we wait for more solid science on the subject, you can take steps to limit glyphosate exposure in your diet.  The most contaminated foods are wheat, soy, corn, and beets.  Groups have claimed that residues can also be found in conventionally grown crops such as lettuce, carrots, whole grains and even honey whose soils have been sprayed with glyphosate, even a year or more after the original application. Therefore it would be ideal to buy all of your produce organic, especially of those foods mentioned, whenever possible. Keep in mind that many other conventional (non-organic) foods are unintentionally contaminated as well. There is no easy way, it seems, to avoid glyphosate 100%, but with knowledge and saavy shopping you can do your best to protect your health.

  1. http://civileats.com/2016/02/17/fda-to-start-testing-for-glyphosate-in-food/
  2. http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/glyphogen.html
  3. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-food-agriculture-glyphosate-idUSKBN0N029H20150410
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glyphosate
  5. http://civileats.com/2016/02/17/fda-to-start-testing-for-glyphosate-in-food/

The Horrors of Halloween Candy

Halloween candyIt’s that time of year again that I’ve come to dread: Halloween. It’s not so much that I mind the ghoulish decorations or creepy costumes. It’s mostly the colorful wrapped confections that put me on edge. All month long, for 31 exhausting days, I’m bombarded by two normally very sweet little boys whose sole mission is to find and consume candy. You just can’t avoid it. It’s in the stores, it’s at the dentist’s office, it’s at the school party …. the stuff is everywhere and every second it seems it’s all my kids can think about. Ok, I might be exaggerating slightly. They do think about other things, like TV shows and Legos, but it is amazing how much they love candy. So many tears when Mom has to say no, no, and no again. Like I said, exhausting.

You might now be thinking I’m pretty much the meanest mom on earth. Who would deny their kids a few harmless pieces of Halloween candy? Look, I do give in once in awhile, but I also say no a lot. The average American kid between the ages of 4 and 8 already consumes around 21 tsp of sugar a day. That is an insane amount, as in more than 2 cans of soda worth. Halloween isn’t necessarily to blame for this, but there’s no reason to add to our already sugar laden diets.

Apart from the sugar, the thing that really scares me about Halloween candy is the ingredients and additives. Yes, those pesky colors, dyes, preservatives, GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and even trans fats. They help make products tasty and eye-appealing, yes, but let’s face it, it’s not food.

Let’s look at a common Halloween favorite, candy corn. Brach’s candy corn, besides sugar, also contains corn syrup, dextrose (both likely GMO corn derived) as well as yellow #6, yellow #5, and red #3. Let’s not forget that candy corn is just gross. No personal bias there.

What about another all star favorite, Skittles? While these little sugar nuggets are quite tasty and addictive, they are also delivering sugar, corn syrup (GMO), hydrogenated palm kernel oil (trans fats!!), dextrin (GMO), modified food starch, corn starch (GMO), and an assortment of food dyes, including yellow 6 lake, red 40 lake, yellow 5 lake, blue 2 lake, yellow 5, red 40, yellow 6, blue 1 lake, and blue 1. Little bodies shouldn’t have to deal with this sugar and chemical assault.

I could go an on with these. You get the picture. Halloween candy is far from harmless. I cringe every time I give in. I get it that kids need to be kids, but when did that become letting them eat sugary confections loaded with food additives, GMOs, and trans fats?

My back up plan has been to get some tasty treats in the house that while still admittedly have sugar, at least they use natural food dyes and organic sugar cane (not saying its healthy, just less harmful). I also explain to them what is in typical candy and why it’s not good for them. I find that providing some context around my apparent meanness really helps. Then providing an alternative, albeit still carefully portion controlled, seems to keep tears at bay.

I challenge you to seek out some less chemical-laden options for the little ghosts and goblins that end up on your doorstep this year. Most of these will be found in the “natural” section of your local grocer. Better yet? Give out a small toy instead or include some dried fruit and nuts along with whatever candy you choose to dispense. Maybe, just maybe, someday our country will wake up and get over this insane sugar addiction that we inflict on ourselves and our young. Maybe?