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Sourcing the Menu: Fruit & veggies

NOTE: This is an edited version of portions of Appendices 2 & 3 of the “Revised Stealth Syndromes Study Protocol as approved by the University of California San Francisco Medical School Committee on Human Research.


Standards and Sourcing (From Appendix 2)

Fruits & vegetables

All vegetables and fruits must come fresh from an organically-certified source irrigated by well water or suitably filtered tap water.

Recycled municipal wastewater (increasingly used for food crops) is unacceptable.

All irrigation must also be done using metal containers. No plastic drip lines or emitters

No commercial fertilizer can be used.

No pesticide can be applied including substances that are approved for organic use unless they have been examined for — and free of — adjuvants, surfactants, and other auxiliary chemicals that may have endocrine-disrupting or other harmful effects.

The soil in which plants are grown cannot come from a source that uses commercial fertilizer amendments, or biosolids (sludge from municipal sewage treatment plants) which is also increasingly used on food crops.

The vegetables must be harvested and processed by hand without using polymer gloves other than nitrile. No conveyor belts, plastic tubs, or containers are allowed.

Vegetables must be placed in a glass or steel container for delivery, not in a plastic bucket or in cardboard. Phthalates are commonly used in the inks on paper and cardboard and are found in recycled paper, cardboard, and packaging materials.

Salad dressings will be made with lemon or other citrus juices, not vinegar.

Rationale (From Appendix 3)

See also:

  • Avoiding Microplastics, biosolids and nano particles
  • Sourcing the Menu: Water & fertilizers: Ubiquitous contamination sources.

Vegetables in both the exposure and decontamination phases will be coordinated to accommodate seasonally available local products obtained from USDA-certified organic farms which do not use recycled wastewater for irrigation.

Most fruits and vegetables receive substantial exposure to plastics before they reach the supermarket. This contamination, which also applies to grains for bread, cereal and pasta, results from the use of plastics during harvest, processing, and packaging for sale.

Most supermarket fruits and vegetables are grown with commercial fertilizers and an increasing percentage are fertilized with biosolids — a euphemism for the sludge from municipal sewage treatment plants.

Due to loosening standards and a lengthening list of “exceptions” to the USDA rules, even certified organic fruits and vegetables can be fertilized and treated with a growing number of commercial chemicals.

Exceptions to the regulations have been made by the USDA without extensive study of the substances involved. Also overlooked are additives, surfactants, and other auxiliary chemicals added to enhance the active ingredients. Those added substances often have endocrine-disrupting or other harmful effects.

From sewer to table

Most American supermarket produce aisles will feature fruits and vegetables irrigated with recycled municipal sewer and wastewater and fertilized with biosolids – sewage sludge.

Published scientific studies have demonstrated that chemicals in recycled wastewater can be absorbed by the edible portions of some fruits & vegetables or remain on the surface after water contact.

Tree-born fruit may have contact contamination, but the distance from the ground to the fruit makes it less likely that contamination will reach edible interior parts.

See: Recycled Wastewater In The Wine Vineyard for more.

Supermarkets okay with sewer-to-store veggies (all but one)

As far as can be determined, Whole Foods is the only grocery chain to ban fruits and vegetables fertilized with sewer sludge: Whole Foods Bans Sludge Fertilizer.

Recycled municipal wastewater (increasingly used for food crops) is currently not prohibited by USDA Organic Standards and is not addressed even by Whole Foods.

Harvesting and processing involve extensive contact with conveyor belts containing phthalates for flexibility and hard plastic rollers whose durability usually results from BPA-containing polycarbonates.

Food contact materials also contribute to contamination since many whole fresh vegetable are wrapped in plastic for sale.

Frozen vegetables

Frozen vegetables receive additional plastic contact in processing and are packaged in plastic. Some are packaged with directions for the contents to be heated or microwaved while in in the plastic bags and containers. Heating in the bag increases the release of environmental chemicals into the food.

Fruit and vegetable juice

The commercial processing of fruit and vegetable juice offer numerous exposure opportunities for contamination. Plastics are extensively present in peeling, crushing, filtering, transport and in the plastic bottles, pouches, and epoxy can linings.