|No worries, you’re more
than safe eating potatoes.
Potatoes have been getting a really bad rap lately and it totally isn’t fair.
Of course, you’ll remember the little girl’s science experiment that turned out not to be so accurate. Potatoes are also routinely listed on EWG’s “Dirty Dozen” list (the same list that is really just a dirty lie). And last week, Dr. Oz brought on an “expert” (who just happens to also have substantial financial ties to the organic industry) saying that you absolutely must avoid eating conventionally grown potatoes because of the allegedly high pesticide residues.
I reached out to the Idaho Potato Commission (after all, they’re the experts; right?) to get some perspective on these issues and step away from the sensational. I spoke with Travis Blaker, who assured me that consumers have nothing to worry about. He explained:
There is a common misconception of farmers in this country that they overuse fertilizers and pesticides in their farming operation. The truth is, these growers continually use the latest science and technology to make sure their crops are sustainable and healthy. Pesticides and fertilizers costs money and if the crop doesn’t need it, they certainly won’t use it.
Travis also pointed out that farmers are also eating their own produce. It isn’t like Farmer Joe grows conventional potatoes to sell and then goes out and purchases organic potatoes to eat. Rather, the farmer is producing a crop that is safe for his own family as well. As one farmer from the Rexburg, Idaho area explained:
I have lived around and spoken with potato growers all my life. I know and have visited with potato growers all across the nation. I have never met a grower who keeps a separate plot of potatoes without chemicals for himself. Potato growers believe in their product and the safe and healthy nature of a potato.
How can those in the industry be so sure? Because the chemicals have been thoroughly scrutinized, heavily regulated, and carefully applied. Remember, each pesticide, herbicide, and fertilizer is first scrutinized by the EPA before it is available for commercial use. The EPA establishes what are called “tolerances.” These are:
A tolerance is the maximum amount of a pesticide that can be on a raw product when it is used and still be considered safe. Under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA), a raw agricultural product is deemed unsafe if it contains a pesticide residue, unless the residue is within the limits of a tolerance established by EPA or is exempt from the requirement.
Before each spray is available, we know exactly how much can be on a raw product (before any type of washing) and still be perfectly safe for human consumption. Application of the product is then regulated by those tolerances. Under the Pesticide Detection Program food samples from around the country are collected and analyzed by the USDA and published annually. The data reflects the amount of pesticide residue on conventionally grown produce. Based on this data, the FDA, USDA, and EPA all conclude that there is no danger with the exposure to the pesticides on conventionally grown food.
The tolerances for the pesticides are set considering who it going to eat it, how much you’re likely to eat, what the crop is, and what chemical is being applied. It takes into consideration that children are going to eat it, or that you’re going to eat 3 potatoes. Anything below the tolerances are safe. In the USDA’s annual studies, the tolerance levels were well below the maximum amount allowed. If the maximum is completely safe, then “well below” is even better.
|That’s about 50,000 pounds of potatoes!
[T]he largest, most affordable source of potassium in the American Diet (18% of the Daily Value in a 5.3 oz. serving). Additionally, with skin, potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C (45% of the Daily Value), a good source of vitamin B6 (10% of the Daily Value) and provide 8 % of the Daily Value for fiber (2 grams). In addition, potatoes are naturally fat-free and a medium-sized potato contains a mere 110 calories.
So, regardless what the Dr. Oz’s of the world want you to think, you should feel good about making the choice to purchase and prepare conventional potatoes for your entire family.They’re affordable, nutritious, and (most importantly) safe.
Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net