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    The truth about your veggies

    Karnjariya Sukrung- Bangkok Post

    Safety tips for healthy vegetable eating
    1.Eat them in their right seasons. This is a way to help you enjoy vegetables with less worry about chemicals. If grown in their right season, vegetables bloom profusely and will have less insect problems, which lessens the need to use chemicals

    SUMMER (Feb - May):Chinese kales, green kuang futsoi, cucumbers, lettuces, cha-om, morning glory, kae flowers, Buab (gourd/luffa).
    RAINY SEASON (Jun - Sept):
    Chinese kales, green kuang futsoi, cucumbers, lettuces, cha-om, morning glory, ivy gourds, bamboo shoots, yard long beans, bitter gourds (mara), shallots, corianders.
    COLD SEASON< (Oct - Jan):
    pumpkins, cabbages, carrots, chinese radish, cauliflowers, broccoli, tomatoes, onions, garlic, chilies, Tang-O, Spinach (Puay Leng), green beans, green peas, wing beans, bell peppers..
    2.Choose the right vegetables. Look for wormholes on leaves. Choose those that have been well cleaned by vendors, leaving no soil sediment nor dirt. Be cautious of extra-nice, stiff and fresh looking vegetables.
    3.Eat more indigenous plants. Thai indigenous plants are plenty and easily grown. Plus, they have been proven to have medicinal properties.
    4.Always wash vegetables well and thoroughly even if those under the chemical-free label. Proper cleansing methods can reduce chemical residues by up to 90 per cent.
    Here's some cleansing methods:
    A spoonful of sodium bicarnomate per 20 litres of water. Soak for 15 minutes Efficacy: 90-95 %
    A spoonful of vinegar and a basin of water. Soak for 10-15 minutes Efficacy: 60-84 %
    Two spoons of salt and a basin of water. Soak for 10 minutes Efficacy: 29-38 %
    20-30 grains of potassium permanganate (Dang Tabtim) and a basin of water. Soak for 10 minutes Efficacy: 35-43 %
    Parboil vegetables with hot water Efficacy: 48-50 %
    5. Buy chemical-free or organic crops from reliable sources. Today, there are some consumer-protection organisations that label safe and chemical-free vegetables.
    6. The ultimate safety is perhaps a do-it yourself way. Plant vegetables you like in your own garden. Someone who has tried it (see main story) said it is not as hard as many presume and it does not take much space at all. By this means, you can ensure yourself and your family that every leaf and stalk you eat are genuinely free from chemicals.
    What kind of vegetables were on your menu this morning and what are you planning to have for lunch? Are there any of these: Chinese kale, cabbage, Chinese cabbage (kwang tung), string beans, or Chinese white cabbage?

    If any of them is your choice then you are no different from many Bangkokians who also favour these five vegetables, according to the "Top 12 Vegetables in the Hearts of Consumers and Vendors" survey conducted by the Media Centre for Development Foundation.

    The others on the list of favourites are morning glory, Chinese radish, coriander, shallot, carrots, celery, ivy gourd, bean sprouts and baby corns.

    Undeniably, these vegetables are truly yummy and best known for their nutritious value.

    But if these are the veggies you eat all year round, then you may run the risk of taking a higher dose of the toxic chemicals used in the cultivation process. Most of these vegetables have often been found contaminated with pesticide residues, formaldehyde and bleaching agents (Sodium Hydrosulphite), according to a recent survey by the Department of the Medical Sciences.

    According to the state agency, the five most popular vegetables-Chinese kale, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, string beans, and Chinese white cabbage-are classified as the "least safe".

    Out of 45 samples for each type of the five vegetables, over 30 of each type were found harbouring chemical residues and from three to 15 samples were found unsafe.

    Those available in the "chemical-free" packages were no exception. They were contaminated, albeit in smaller amounts.

    Though many consumers might feel that they are being taken advantage of when buying these toxic-laced vegetables, Komsan Hutapad from the Media Centre for Development Foundation said consumers, too, are responsible for the widespread availability of contaminated vegetables in the market.

    Mr Komsan added that the high demand for certain vegetables have pushed the market to create larger supplies even if it is at the expense of the consumer's health.

    Apparently, vegetables that are most popular are Chinese veggies, most of which are hardly grown in tropical weather unless more chemicals are used both as fertiliser and pesticide.

    "These crops are beset with insect problems. Also, the gross demand for Chinese vegetables throughout the year encourages vast and single-crop plantation that encourages the use of chemical fertilisers and insecticides. Heavy use of chemicals comes especially when the crops are needed out of season," he said.

    If consumers would only add indigenous vegetables to their culinary menus, Mr Komsan added, they could lower the risks of chemical contamination in food.

    But according to the survey, indigenous plants are no match for Chinese vegetables and did not even get on the top 12 favourite vegetables list for Bangkokians.

    "Indigenous plant growers rarely need to use chemicals. The plants are easily grown in the country for the climate and temperature are right for them. Besides, they seem to have less problem with insects."

    Not only the consumer preference for Chinese crops, but also "misconceptions" about vegetables lead to dangerous menus.

    "Most shoppers like to pick fresh vegetables with nice-looking leaves or bulging stalks. But this beauty is a killer," said Mr Komsan.

    Many shoppers may have geared themselves with useful tips to detect chemical-contaminated vegetables from healthy ones. One rule is to search for worm traces on leaves.

    But do blemished leaves mean they are chemical-free?

    Well, not always.

    The official at the Department of Medical Sciences said leaves with holes could trick buyers into believing that they are safe from chemicals.

    Some growers deliberately let worms eat their crops for a certain period of time in order to attract consumers before using chemicals as required.

    Not only that vegetables can be contaminated on the farm, but also tainted with toxic elements while being displayed for sale.

    Some vendors admitted they would soak vegetables in water with a solution of pain-killer medicine, alum (sarn som) and formaldehyde to keep their products forever fresh and green.

    Mr Komsan suggested that if consumers change their eating habits by eating more indigenous vegetables and avoiding out-of-the-season Chinese vegetables, they would lessen the risk of toxic contamination in their food.

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