Target: The Food and Drug Administration
Goal: Require disclosure of all chemical treatments and additives used on produce
Many people believe that the produce they purchase in a grocery store is just as it would be in nature, but that is not the case. Enormous amounts of food treatments occur during handling with zero disclosure to the consumer. If purchased from a conventional grocery store, it’s likely that your tomatoes were artificially ripened with ethylene gas, your bell peppers and cucumbers were coated with wax, and your oranges were dyed brighter orange. The current stance of the FDA is that consumers don’t need to know all the details of what happens to their food. Tell the FDA people are smart enough to decide for themselves and demand full disclosure of all produce treatments and additives.
Treatments and additives are often used for 3 main reasons: to increase shelf life, to kill germs, and to increase attractiveness. Increasing shelf life might mean waxing produce to make them last longer or artificially ripening foods to regulate inventory. Killing germs often means chemical treatments such as fumigation or irradiation, or heat and humidity changes such as pasteurization, curing, or freezing. Increasing attractiveness generally means adding dyes to improve color or using sprays or waxes to improve texture or gloss.
Any additive can have potential health risks, such as allergic or hypersensitivity reactions or unknown effects. Some health practitioners suspect that many people who think they are allergic to stone fruits, for example, are actually allergic to the waxes commonly applied to their peels. High exposure to pesticides and fumigants is linked to cancer, and the traces found on foods could have long-term harm.
Changing the appearance of foods using dyes or artificial ripening also misleads customers who think the appearance is helping them gauge freshness or ripeness. People may unknowingly purchase older produce that has already lost much of its flavor and nutritional value. Some treatments, such as heat and humidity changes, can increase this decay.
Demand that the FDA require stores and suppliers to fully disclose what has been done to foods. Pesticides, fumigants, sprays, waxes, heat and humidity treatments, and so forth should all be disclosed to consumers using placards or other labels.
Dear Food and Drug Administration:
Consumers are growing increasingly selective about the quality and freshness of their food, often because of health and environmental concerns. Unfortunately, many treatments can be applied to produce with no disclosure to consumers, making it difficult for people to make informed decisions. Please require stores and suppliers to disclose non-obvious treatments such as pesticides, fumigants, waxes, and dyes, and processes such as irradiation or curing.
Consumers have the right to know what has happened to the foods they are purchasing. Additives such as waxes and dyes, no matter how small the amount, may pose the risk of allergies or other effects. Residues of pesticides and fumigants could also pose long-term health risks such as cancer. These should be disclosed to people just as ingredients on packaged foods would be so people can evaluate for themselves whether they wish to purchase such products.
Many treatments can mislead customers. It is deceptive to secretly dye produce, for example, when people use that color to gauge how flavorful or fresh an item is. It is also unfair to artificially ripen or cure foods, both of which allow stores to significantly extend shelf life even though nutrients continue to rapidly decay. All three of these treatments lead to people purchasing less nutritional, less flavorful foods without knowing.
Consumers are increasingly informed and educated, and deserve to have access to relevant information. Require stores and suppliers to reveal through labeling or placards when produce have been treated with chemical or other non-obvious methods.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Moon Stars and Paper