In Thailand it is impossible to completely avoid eating food that contains pesticides. But there are practical steps you can take to reduce the amount of pesticide residues in your food. Here are seven suggestions:
Buy food that is labelled ‘organic’ or ‘safe’. Thailand has an increasing number of stores that specialise in selling healthy food, and some supermarkets have a special section for organic or safe vegetables.
Avoid eating fruits and vegetables that are reported to have high levels of residues. This includes introduced fruits like strawberries and grapes, and salad vegetables such as Chinese cabbage and yard-long bean. Read the newspapers and listen to the radio to find out what other foods are found to be contaminated.
Avoid buying and eating fruit and vegetables that are produced out of the normal season. Some farmers try to grow crops at an unusual time of the year. They get a high price for these crops, but they often use high levels of pesticides.
Rinse fruits and vegetables thoroughly with water before cooking and eating them. If you are not using the vegetables on the same day as buying them, rinse them before putting them in the refrigerator. Some residues are on the surface of the food and you can get rid of most of them by peeling or scrubbing with a brush.
Eat cooked vegetables instead of raw items. Cooking usually reduces the level of pesticides in food because the heat destroys some of these chemicals.
Look for the “Clean Food, Good Taste” logo when you go out to eat. Restaurants and food stalls with this sign have been tested by the Ministry of Public Health.
Take care about using chemicals in your kitchen. Don’t keep pesticides (e.g., Baygon, Raid) and food in the same cupboard. Don’t use these products near food, or on surfaces where food is prepared.
In addition to these recommendations, some people avoid buying foods that looks perfect. They believe that if the vegetables in the market have some signs of insect damage, such as holes in the leaves, this suggests that the crop wasn’t sprayed with pesticides just before harvest. There is some truth in this belief. But organic farmers can produce vegetables that look perfect, and chemical farmers can spray pesticides after a crop has been damaged by insects. You cannot depend on the appearance of food as the only indicator of safety. You also need to think about the type of food, where you bought it, and how you prepare it.