How do you make sure to use as few pesticides as possible?

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How do you make sure to use as few pesticides as possible?


Although there are many safety checks on the use of pesticides in Belgium, around 78% of the population would be concerned about the amount of pesticides in our food. This is the conclusion of a study conducted by the Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC). Is this concern justified and how can you ensure that you are consuming as few pesticides as possible? We asked Eric de Mertler, a bioengineer and doctor of agricultural and applied biological sciences.

Also read: Mycotoxins (mold poison): “Get rid of moldy food”

What are pesticides?

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Insecticides, also known as plant protection products, are chemicals used to control unwanted organisms such as insects, weeds, fungi, and pathogens. Farmers in particular are trying to use it to increase the quality of their produce so that they can make more sales in the long run.

Pesticides come in different forms, such as sprays, powders, liquids and granules. While they can be beneficial for crop protection and disease prevention, they can also have a negative impact on the environment and our health.

Also read: What are biopesticides and what risks do they pose to humans and the environment?

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How dangerous are pesticides in our food?

Pesticides are not healthy, but according to de Mertelier, we should not overestimate the amount we consume through our diet: “There are very strict safety measures in Belgium that prevent a lot of toxic substances from getting into our food. Consider, for example, chlorine pesticides. which were banned in 1974 because they decompose too slowly.The doses we consume today are so small that they are no longer harmful to our health.We must also not forget that everything we eat contains toxic substances, you cannot escape from them.Nature also produces toxins by itself.

The latest report also proves that we shouldn’t overestimate the amount of pesticides in our diet.National summary report on the results of pesticide residue controlfrom FASFC. The results showed that 97.8 percent of all food samples examined fell within legal limits. And in 41.4%, no measurable residue was found. With regard to fruits and vegetables, 32.3 percent of them were free of pesticides and MRLs were measured in only 4.9 percent of all samples examined. It is also worth noting that, as in previous years, non-EU-grown products (4.1%) exceeded MRLs relatively more than EU-grown products (1.6%). For clarity, a Maximum Residue (MRL) is the maximum legally permissible residue (residual level) of a substance in or on food.

Also read: Is natural food healthier?

How can you reduce the amount of pesticides in your diet?

If you still want to take as little risk as possible, according to De Maerteleire, there are some measures you can take:

  1. Wash fruits and vegetables well before eating them. A few good rinses under cool running water will remove fine dust, lead, and some water-soluble insecticides.
  2. Removing the outer leaves of (leaf) crops.
  3. Be careful with home grown fruits and vegetables. There is no quality control, so contamination from environmental pollution or pesticides often goes unnoticed. So be careful and observant if you are going to use insecticides in your own garden and always follow strictly the working conditions mentioned in the leaflet (dose, waiting times, safety measures …).
  4. You can also switch to consuming organically grown fruits and vegetables. But research shows that even these products aren’t always free of toxins, even though they don’t contain virtually any commonly used or synthetically produced pesticides. The pesticides used in organic farming, biocides, are not automatically harmful.
  5. Eat a varied diet. Variation in diet means consuming different fruits, vegetables, and grains, each with their own potential contaminants, both organic and inorganic. This way, the chances of consuming a single pesticide overdose are slim – you’re just spreading the risk.
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Also read: Pesticides: How can you avoid pesticides on fruits and vegetables as much as possible?

“And one more thing: eat fruits with their skin on. They are full of antioxidants that protect you to some extent from all kinds of diseases and disorders. And definitely eat enough vegetables (300 grams) and fruits (250 grams) per day.” This is a much bigger problem today than fear of pesticides. The impact on health from eating too many fruits and vegetables today takes precedence over any health risks of pesticides that meet legal standards. The fact is that the risk of consuming too high a percentage of pesticides is virtually zero today,” says de Mertelier.

Also read: Is it better to eat the peel of the fruit or does it contain too many pesticides?


Whole, half and complete nonsense facts about nutrition” by Eric de Mertelier (Mantoux, 2020)

Last updated: August 2023

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Megan Vasquez

"Creator. Coffee buff. Internet lover. Organizer. Pop culture geek. Tv fan. Proud foodaholic."

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