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Residues of harmful substances found in superfoods
Whether goji berries, chia seeds or quinoa: the so-called "superfoods" are currently on everyone's lips. Characteristic of the food, which mostly comes from distant countries, is its valuable ingredients. They are often particularly rich in vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. However, it is not uncommon for substances that are hazardous to health to be included, as a current test shows.
Everyone is talking about superfoods
Many people expect so-called superfoods such as chia seeds, goji or acai berries to have enormous health effects. Such foods are sometimes said to have real miraculous effects. Among other things, they should have an antioxidative, anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting effect and have a positive effect on our figure and mood. A recent test has now shown that many of the exotic foods also contain residues of health-endangering substances such as pesticides or heavy metals.
Nutrition experts repeatedly warn against excessive expectations in connection with so-called superfoods. Such foods can complement the menu, but one should not hope for miracles.
Goji berries, for example, contain a lot of iron, calcium, magnesium and vitamins A, C and E compared to other fruits and have been used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for thousands of years.
Their alleged rejuvenation effect has not been scientifically proven. Even with chia seeds, according to some experts, it is not clear what the superfood can do.
Substances hazardous to health
The problem is that harmful substances can be found in many such products, as the consumer magazine "Öko-Test" found in a study last year.
A current test by the environmental protection organization GLOBAL 2000, which was carried out together with the Chamber of Labor Lower Austria and the human rights organization Südwind, has now also shown that substances hazardous to health can often be found in such foods.
"These so-called superfoods are consumed on the assumption that they are extremely beneficial for health and well-being," said Dr. Waltraud Novak, pesticide expert at GLOBAL 2000, in a message.
“What you certainly don't expect from such foods are residues of health-endangering substances such as pesticides or heavy metals. But that's exactly what we found in our test. ”
Pesticides, lead and cadmium found
According to GLOBAL 2000, up to 13 different pesticide ingredients were detected on Goji berries from China.
Several of the active substances found are no longer approved in the EU for health reasons, for example because they can change the genetic makeup or damage the unborn child. However, these substances are still used in the countries of origin.
Furthermore, lead and cadmium residues were found on all Goji berries. According to the experts, very little is known about the interaction of several pesticides at the same time and these “cocktails” are not regulated by law.
Many of the substances found are also suspected of being carcinogenic or toxic to reproduction.
Superfood has come a long way
No residues of pesticides or heavy metals were found on the examined cranberries, but the question arises whether they were really needed:
“The cranberries all come from Canada and have had a long journey. Because of the many kilometers of transportation, they have a large CO2 backpack that is harmful to our climate, ”says Novak.
The examined chia seeds and quinoa also came from far and wide, namely from Latin America. All goji berries came from China. Superfoods therefore generally have a 30 to 75 times larger carbon footprint than comparable domestic products.
For many products, there was no information about the origin on the packaging. There is no legal requirement to indicate the country of origin for superfoods. The environmentalist said: "We are calling for the agricultural land to be labeled consistently for food."
Legal maximums have not been exceeded
Even if the majority of the products did not exceed the statutory maximum values and there were no acute dangers for consumers, the many residues showed what the production of these superfoods looks like.
Any residue means that this pesticide was previously sprayed on the plantations. Without protective clothing, farmers in growing countries handle toxic pesticides. In addition, there are poor working conditions and earnings are often below the subsistence level.
There are hardly any superfood plantations that could demonstrate compliance with social standards such as living wages or the prohibition of child labor through independent certification.
But why go so far when there are so many domestic alternatives to superfoods?
For example, domestic crops such as spinach and kale make an important contribution to healthy nutrition.
And blueberries and currants are in no way inferior to cranberries, millet is just as healthy as quinoa. Domestic rose hips even surpass the goji berries with their vitamin C content.
A balanced diet with plenty of seasonal vegetables and fruits from regional organic farming is unbeatable - for health and the environment. And if you want to buy superfoods from distant countries, you should opt for products with a Fairtrade seal and organic certification. (ad)