What Chemicals Are in Food? Simple Solutions to Avoid Harmful Toxins in Food

By Melinda Wenner Moyer, "How you can avoid BPA, mercury, pesticides and more chemicals in your food.," September/October 2011

How you can avoid BPA, mercury, pesticides and more chemicals in your food.

"Thank you for this article. This has long been a concern for our family. Luckily my in-laws raise grass fed beef, chicken, and organic pork. I would love a source for more food companies that have eliminated BPA and other toxins from...

How I Reduced PCBs, Dioxins and Mercury in My Food

Environmental journalist and bestselling author Michael Pollan famously wrote, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” That last part is hard for me—hand me a burger and I’ll snarf it. Indeed, I’m a big fan of meat and eggs. But the more I began reading about conventionally farmed meat and meat products, the more put off I became.

Foods—particularly meat, dairy and eggs—are responsible for more than 90 percent of our exposure to dioxins (which include some PCBs), contaminants that are by-products of combustion, such as backyard trash burning, and some industrial processes. These compounds are prevalent in the environment and, once ingested, camp out in fat. They are highly stable and remain in the human body for decades. They also get more concentrated as you move up the food chain. Bigger fish, for example, generally have more toxins than smaller ones. The same concept applies to conventionally raised animals, which are often fed the by-products of other animals. (This is banned by organic regulations.) “When a cow [from an industrial farm] is butchered, all of the waste fat is fed back to other animals,” says David Carpenter, M.D., director of the Institute for Health & Environment at the University at Albany. In 2003, the National Academy of Sciences recommended that the U.S. government “give high priority” to ending this common practice. No action has yet been taken.

Next: What's a Meat-Lover to Do? »

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