Pesticide in food has been a cause of concern for decades. Studies have proven that pesticides can potentially cause cancer, damage the brain, and even harm foetus.
Indians are at exceptionally high risk because according to Pesticides Action Network India ( PAN) unscientific usage of hazardous pesticides is rampant in India. According to their study, 40% of registered pesticides are highly hazardous. Moreover, many unauthorized pesticides too are used in food production.
Realizing the risks, those who can afford, switch to organic produce for consumption. But unfortunately, that too doesn’t keep you away from harm. A recent piece of news from Kerala has reported that 7 of the 35 samples of vegetables collected from organic shops had pesticide residues in them.
In the present scenario, the onus is on individuals as businesses and state machinery are yet to act effectively. Ideally, grow your own food. But as it is not often possible, the best way would be to adopt measures to minimize exposure to pesticides through effective cleaning.
So, let us explore some of the effective methods to remove pesticide residues in food.
How To Remove Pesticide Residues In Vegetables?
Various studies have found that soaking fruits and vegetables in different reagents can effectively get rid of up to 95% of pesticide residues. Some of the commonly used household chemicals that are found effective are-
Vinegar/ Acetic Acid
Vinegar, as you may know, is a diluted solution of 5-8% acetic acid in water. Vinegar and acetic acid are found to be effective methods for reducing pesticide residue in fresh produces.
According to research, soaking spinach in 10% acetic acid for 10 minutes resulted in a 70-95% reduction of residues of pesticides like deltamethrin, cypermethrin, chlorpyrifos, and endosulfan. Similarly, 10% vinegar proved most effective in removing acetamiprid and procymidone- pesticides commonly used in leafy vegetables, grapes, etc. Soaking tomatoes in a 4% vinegar solution for 10 minutes was also effective in removing residues of fipronil, Thiamethoxam, Imidacloprid, and Pymetrozine.
Most studies have found that acidic solutions are more effective at removing pesticide residues compared to alkaline solutions. Citric acid solution is one such effective method. Studies have shown that a 9% citric acid solution effectively removed 85-90% of pesticides like aldrin and imidacloprid in bell peppers and cucumbers. Thus, the study concluded citric acid solution is an effective method to remove pesticide residue in fresh vegetables consumed as salads.
The guidelines of the National Institution of Nutrition say that washing with 2% salt water will effectively remove most of the contact pesticide residues on the surface of the fruits and vegetables. But, it is not as effective as vinegar and citric acid. For example, while soaking in 10% vinegar reduced 85% of Fipronil in tomatoes, 10% salt solution was able to reduce only 78% of the residues.
How To Make Vegetable Wash At Home?
Making a vegetable wash at home is an easy affair. Pour 10 ml of acetic acid and 3 tablespoons of citric acid into 1 litre of water. Soak the vegetables in the solution for 10 minutes without fail. Then, rinse in running water before using it. Ensure that the vegetables and fruits you clean this way are not cut or with damaged skin.
How To Remove Pesticide Residues In Fish?
It is not just fruits and vegetables that are contaminated with pesticides. Fish, chicken, and meat too are contaminated with pesticides as they are sprayed on the animal fodder. A study found that the most effective method to remove pesticide residue from fish is by soaking it in a solution of 0.1%
sodium bicarbonate solution + 2% vinegar + 2% salt solution + lemon juice for 10 minutes.
Effect of Cooking On Pesticide Residues
Washing salad vegetables and fruits with vinegar and citric acid are important as you eat them raw. Though it won’t remove 100% of pesticide residues, it is one of the most feasible options. Yet another option is to opt for organic produce from dependable farmers. For apples and such “dirty dozen” fruits, you could consider peeling the skin off.
Fortunately, studies have shown that cooking can reduce pesticide residues in food to a great extent. Saueteing, blanching, and steaming are effective methods to remove pesticides from vegetables. Pressure cooking, frying, and baking are effective methods to get rid of pesticide residue from fish and meat.
So, effective cleaning using the right agents combined with thorough cooking can bring down pesticide content to a safe level for human consumption.