Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Pesticides In Food

What happens in children's' bodies when you replace their conventional food with organic food?

MDA and TCPY are pesticide derivatives.

In this study, levels of pesticides in their bodies went down:
"We found that the median urinary concentrations of the specific metabolites for malathion and chlorpyrifos decreased to the nondetect levels immediately after the introduction of organic diets and remained nondetectable until the conventional diets were reintroduced.

We conclude that organic diets provide a protective mechanism against OP pesticide exposure. ... Such protection is dramatic and immediate."
What may be the impact of lower pesticides in the body?
"It is intuitive to assume that children whose diets consist of organic food items would have a lower probability of neurologic health risks, a common toxicologic mechanism of the OP pesticide class."
Meat and dairy foods were excluded from this study. Foods that were switched to organic for those 5 days included:
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Processed fruits and vegetables (e.g. salsa)
  • Juices
  • Wheat, corn, rice, soy-based foods (e.g. pasta, cereal, popcorn, or chips)

Which foods have high pesticide loads?

This pilot study of 11 adults ...
Dietary Organophosphorus Pesticide Intake and Urinary Dialkylphosphate Levels in Adult Volunteers, Epidemiology, 20082

... found:

- Chlorpyrifos was most frequently detected in beans/nuts/legumes samples (29%)
- Highest measured concentration (400 ng/g) was found in a dairy sample consisting of chocolate ice cream.
- Groups of food with the highest concentration of this pesticide, highest ranked first:
  • Bagel, bread, chocolate muffin, pineapple cake
  • Burrito, ensure (nutrition drink)
  • Kashi go lean cereal, double stuff Oreos, granola bar, peanut butter, soy milk
  • Hot chocolate (skim milk, chocolate), milk
  • Ketchup, romaine lettuce, tomatoes
  • Soy burger, energy bar, balance bar
  • Brownie, scone, tortilla
  • Chocolate truffles, Dijon mustard
  • Carb bars, rice
- Diazinon was most frequently detected in grains samples (35%)
- Highest concentration (6,564 ng/g) found in a composite sample of whole wheat bread, whole grain chips, rice noodles, and a multigrain bar.
- Groups of food with the highest concentrations:
  • Mustard
  • Whole wheat sourdough bread
  • Grapes, smoothie
  • Popcorn
  • 14-grain bread (This was labeled organic, although it had some of the highest levels of the pesticide diazinon.)
  • Bread, Frosted Mini Wheats
  • Bread, raisin bagel, cracker
  • French fries
  • Bread, Cheerios
  • Bagel, sandwich, rice pilaf, fruit/grain bar, tortilla chips
- Malathion was most frequently detected in beans/nuts/legumes samples (14%)
- Highest measured concentration (388 ng/g) was found in a dairy sample of milk and yogurt.
- Groups of food with the highest concentrations:
  • Great northern beans, sandwich, energy bar, peanut butter
  • Brownie, scone, tortilla
  • Celery, green beans, ketchup, vegetable korma
  • Peanut butter, whole raw almonds
  • Bread, raisin bagel, cracker
  • Kashi Go Lean cereal, Double Stuff Oreos, granola bar, peanut butter, soy milk
  • Burrito, Ensure (nutrition drink)
  • Lettuce/salad
  • Ketchup, Romaine lettuce, tomatoes
Mustard? For crying out loud.
1 Organic Diets Significantly Lower Children’s Dietary Exposure to Organophosphorus Pesticides, Environmental Health Perspectives, 2006
MDA is malathion dicarboxylic acid, a metabolite of the pesticide malathion.
TCPY is 3,5,6-trichloro-2-pyridinol, a metabolite of the pesticide chlorpyrifos.

2 PowerPoint Presentation
This was a short, 4-day pilot study of 11 adults from Atlanta. It was investigating the validity of using urine to test for pesticides from food. No correlation between pesticides in food and pesticides in urine was found. It was a small group, however, and correlation is more often seen in children. I like that it listed actual foods.

Notably, many subjects consumed levels of pesticides that exceeded EPA Reference Doses (an amount thought to be without risk) and had urine levels many times that found in the general population. (e.g. Dimethylthiophosphate: this study's 95th percentile: 5.7 ug/L, NHANES 1999-2002 average: 1.06 ug/L) I think having pesticides diffused throughout the environment makes quantifying dietary impact challenging.

Idea from shaun who Buzzed this article in Grist: Industrial Meat Comes With Antibiotics And Endocrine Disruptors
Photo of peanut butter: Bix


Melissa said...

Have you seem the EWG's Dirty Dozen and Fantastic Fifteen?
Of course this is only fruits and veggies, but I have found it helpful in trying to decrease pesticide intake. Any thoughts on this list?

Bix said...

Glad you linked that. I use it too.

Foods that don't have a removable peel or rind (apples, peaches, berries, greens) appear more often on the dirty dozen list, and strippables (onions, melons, peas) more on the clean list. Foods were tested after being washed and peeled.

That leaves a big question mark about eating skins ... potato skins, cucumber skins. I wonder where tomatoes fall?

Bix said...


I tend to think of pesticides associated with fresh fruits/vegs. That little pilot study found more pesticides in processed foods (cereals, bread, muffins, soy milk) than it did in non-organic lettuce and tomatoes. I was surprised. Is it that commodity crops (grains, beans) are sprayed so much? Or is it that these chemicals become more concentrated as they work their way up the processing chain?

Maybe it's better to go out of your way to buy organic bread (although that one example of 14-grain organic bread testing high for pesticides was unfortunate) than it is to buy organic berries and greens? Who knows...