Revealed: the 9 worst PFAS fruit ‘n’ veg

At the end of last month, I wrote about PFAS – also known as ‘forever chemicals’ – and how they’ve been found in 95% of strawberries.

I had a few emails about this, asking whether thoroughly washing fruit would help?

Alas, no…

In a recent Independent article, Nick Mole, a policy advisor at the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) said that while washing food can get rid of mud, germs and some bacteria, it cannot get rid of PFAS.

“The pesticides used today are systemic. They are absorbed into the whole plant or produce, and so washing will have absolutely no effect,” he said. “Plus, you can never tell if you have washed anything off because you can’t smell or taste pesticides.”

And it’s not only strawberries that are affected, of course…

PFAS chemicals are routinely sprayed on crops to protect them from fungal diseases and insects. So pretty much every fruit and veg that you buy could be contaminated to varying degrees, from spinach and cucumber to cherries and grapes.

As I pointed out in my original email about this, they’re also in our clothes and drinking water.

So we cannot escape!

It’s a nightmarish scenario I know.

And there aren’t many plus sides to it BUT…

In that same article in The Independent, Christopher Elliott, a professor of Food Safety at Queen’s University Belfast, said that we are relatively well-off here in the UK.

“There are strict controls in place about the use of these chemicals and quite a bit of monitoring is performed by regulators and the food industry in the UK to ensure compliance with the regulations,” he said.

The UK government plans to amend the regulations on persistent organic pollutants (POPs), which include PFAS.

This includes maximum concentration limits for certain PFAS.

Trouble is, there is no clear timeline for when these amendments will be implemented.

Time is not really on our side!

As chemicals sluice through our guts and veins, do we really want to wait for the bureaucrats to debate, discuss, twiddle their thumbs, and then shove it all on the “to be done” pile?

These are truly important issues, in my opinion, but politicians these days prefer the shouty, emotive, vote-winning topics… the ones where we all yell at each other and get upset over exaggerated cultural ‘threats’… rather than hidden, invisible chemicals that permeate our food chain, which could cause cancer and other horrific health conditions.

I wish things like that were at the forefront of the agenda, quite frankly.

The same goes for the horrendous behaviours of the food, oil and pharmaceutical companies who hold us all to ransom, make billions from unhealthy products, and unfairly influence the decisions of governments across the world.

These are the powerful entities we should be railing against and blaming for so many of our deep-seated problems.

Yet time and time again they get to set the rules and control the agenda.

But anyway, my ranting aside, there are a few things you can do…
Another good reason to eat with the seasons

It is possible to reduce your exposure to PFAS by buying organic fruit and veg, according to Nick Mole.

I realise that this will make your food more expensive – which is really what nobody needs these days, when even our current lower inflation is still eating into our earnings.

But if you can switch to organic for some of the higher-risk foods, that could help.

Those are as follows, according to the most recent government tests:

  • Strawberries – 95% of those sampled
  • Grapes – 61% of those sampled
  • Cherries – 56% of those sampled
  • Spinach – 42% of those sampled
  • Tomatoes – 38% of those sampled
  • Peaches/nectarines – 38% of those sampled
  • Cucumber – 22%
  • Apricots – 20%
  • Beans – 15%

Nick Mole also recommends avoiding out-of-season fruit, which are particularly high in PFAS because they get sprayed so that they stay fresh during transportation over long distances.

This is something that I (and many others) have been warning about for years…

  • Unsustainable farming practices that deplete the variety and nutritional value of our food…
  • Food being transported over massive distances for long periods of time, which need chemical help to stay fresh.
  • Our expectation of being able to eat any fruit and veg, any time of year, which means we don’t eat with the seasons.

In our attempts to control nature through chemicals, we have created a terrible health crisis – and now the genie cannot be put back into the bottle, because those chemicals are now out there in the biosphere, contaminating everything.

Sorry if this all sounds a bit bleak, but it’s worth us facing up to the truth about how corrupted and polluted our food, water and air has become.

We might not be able to avoid it, but we can do our best to avoid the worst and eat as well as we can for the sake of our health.