Understanding Food Safety: Pesticides, Hormones, and Antibiotics in Food

By Matthew Hoffman, MD, from WebMD

Safer Food For a Healthier You

Pesticides in produce, hormones in milk, antibiotics in meat – what are all these extra ingredients doing in our food?

Improved testing methods now allow researchers to detect and monitor a strange brew of unpleasant chemicals in our food and bodies. Although the amounts are small and there’s controversy about whether or not they’re harmful, their presence alone is disturbing to many – especially parents of small children.

“Modern production of foods incorporates a wide range of synthetic chemicals,” says Jeff Gillman, PhD, associate professor of horticulture at the University of Minnesota and author of The Truth About Organic Gardening. “Many of these chemicals have the potential to be very damaging to humans if they are exposed to high concentrations, or to low concentrations over an extended period of time.”

“More people are realizing there’s a myriad of chemicals in conventionally produced food,” says Craig Minowa, environmental scientist with the Organic Consumers Association, a nonprofit advocacy group. Although each has passed its own safety review, Minowa points out that “most of the studies on safety are done or supported by the companies themselves.”

So what are the health effects of these unwanted ingredients?

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