Kristin Schafer

    Pumpkin pie and pesticides? New iPhone App for healthy food lovers.

    Posted November 18th, 2009 by

    Personally, I like my cranberries and pumpkin pie chemical-free.

    It’s not that you can taste or smell pesticides on food – the levels are much too low for that. It’s just that I sleep better knowing I’ve done all I can to minimize the number of chemicals I put into my body and feed to my kids.

    I’ve been a mom for 15 years and a pesticide reform advocate for almost as long. I’ve organized around international treaties, lobbied government officials, and cheered at a lot of swim meets and baseball games. For me, these two worlds come together most clearly around food – in our backyard garden, in the produce aisle and at the dinner table.

    My personal strategy? Buy organic and local whenever I can manage it. This keeps pesticides off our plates and helps small organic farmers. My family’s demand for organic sweet potatoes helps spur supply, building a market for produce that doesn’t put farmers, farmworkers and rural families in harm’s way.

    But sometimes organic just isn’t available, and that’s where WhatsOnMyFood? comes in. Pesticide Action Network just released a new iPhone App that makes the invisible problem of pesticides more visible to food shoppers. The tool shows which pesticides are found on what foods, and how those chemicals can harm human health.

    The iPhone App is a streamlined version of PAN’s website. Click on any of the 87 foods listed – cranberries, winter squash, broccoli – to find out how many chemicals were found in samples taken by the federal government, and of those, how many scientists say can cause cancer. Or harm the nervous system of a child. Or wreak havoc on developing reproductive organs.

    Conventional sweet potatoes? Fourteen pesticides found among the samples tested: four have been linked to cancer; six can harm the human nervous system. Sheesh.

    PAN specializes in getting scientific information like this into the hands of people making choices. That includes people making policy decisions, people who grow food and, well, people who eat. I’ve done policy work with PAN for more than a decade now, and to be honest this latest tool is more exciting to me as a mom than as a policy analyst.

    But it helps in both worlds. If the global food movement keeps gaining momentum, policies will have to shift. We seem to be heading in the right direction with the incredible growth of organics in recent years – but we have a very long way to go. Organic farms remain a tiny percentage of U.S. agriculture, and millions of pounds of pesticides are still sprayed in this country every year. Some drift off fields into neighborhoods and schools, some soak into nearby soil and water – and some end up saturating fruits and veggies in the produce aisle.

    We’ll have to go well beyond savvy shopping to solve the pesticide problem. The system is truly broken when we as consumers have to teach ourselves how chemicals like endosulfan, chlorpyrifos and malathion affect the health of our kids. We simply shouldn’t have to know which fruits have the most cancer-causing chemicals, or choose between developmental toxicants and neurotoxins. I mean, really.

    Maybe someday we won’t have to worry about toxic chemicals on our Thanksgiving tables at all. But for the time being, shopping smart really can make a difference. Choosing foods that are healthier for my family also protects farmworkers and rural communities – and moves us all closer to that future day when chemical-free sweet potatoes are the only kind on the shelf.

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    Posted Under: H: Environmental Health


    October 17, 2012 at 10:04 pm by Rolando Measeck

    First off I would like to say terrific blog! I had a quick question that I’d like to ask if you do not mind. I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear your thoughts prior to writing. I have had difficulty clearing my thoughts in getting my thoughts out. I do take pleasure in writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are usually lost simply just trying to figure out how to begin. Any recommendations or tips? Thanks!|


    November 24, 2010 at 4:22 pm by Organic Baby University

    The problem with buying canned pumpkin and condensed milk and those items are the exposure to BPA in the cans. All cans that I am aware of other than the beans by Eden’s organics contain BPA. So then you are forced to chose between pesticides and BPA since there isn’t a pumpkin in another package that is organic in the stores typically. I chose to go with Arrowhead Farms in the tetrapack to avoid BPA since pumpkins have less pesticides than some. It is frustrating that there doesn’t seem to be a pefect answer! I just wanted to make you aware of the BPA risk since buying canned organic products is not a great choice if you can avoid it!


    Anita Reply:

    Thanks for raising this. I believe Eden Organics is the one company that doesn’t use BPA in its canned food linings, but not sure if they make canned pumpkin? Thanks also for sharing the info that Arrowhead Farms has an alternative.


    November 16, 2010 at 5:50 pm by Corinne

    Could you pass me a chemical free pumpkin pie recipe?


    Anita Reply:

    @Corinne – I’ll see if I can contact the author and ask her about resources on healthy, pesticide and chemical free recipes.


    Kristin Schafer Reply:

    @Corinne, Glad you’re looking to go pesticide-free for Thanksgiving dessert! Your best bet is to use your favorite recipe, and hunt down as many organic ingredients as you can find.

    Fresh or canned organic pumpkin should both be available at most major grocery stores, as should sugar, flour & butter. If you’re using condensed milk you may need to hunt a bit harder, but I’ve seen it at some natural food stores. And of course, organic heavy cream for whipping – yum!!!

    Good luck, and enjoy!


    November 20, 2009 at 11:10 am by sheri doblin

    I would like to be notified when you have new articles. I am very much interested in the toxic cosmetics in our health food stores pretending to be SAFE and yet are toxic when checked on the cosmetic data base and other data bases .I was in whole foods yesterday and there were NO real ORGANIC cosmetics. WHY is this allowed? Why do we pay more for good pure things at whole foods and other stores, when they have cancer causing ingredients and are called organic.The consumer who spends extra money for the family , thinking they are buying a safe product are being lied to with marketing tricks and lies.I know only one really organic cosmetic company which is terraessentials. Some of Dr. bronners soaps are organic and yet others cause cancer and worse. C.C.O.F. is boycotting all non organic cosmetics, soaps ect until christmas. Check there web site out. We need to get the stores to give us clean products and the manufacturers to understand we do not want poison and chemicals in our personal care. This stuff causes cancer and more.


    Kristin Schafer Reply:

    @sheri doblin, Hi Sheri – You’re right to be concerned about all of this! Honestly, it shouldn’t be our job to worry so much about the products we buy. Lots of great work going on to work toward safer products – check out for one. Best, Kristin


    November 18, 2009 at 9:47 pm by Amy

    This is really useful. Thank you!


    November 18, 2009 at 3:13 pm by Elizabeth

    I never realized how many pesticides can be found on food. An eye-opener. Going to download the app.


    November 18, 2009 at 1:52 pm by Ariana KELLY

    Wow, what a great resource. Thanks for sharing!


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