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The truth about your veggies
Karnjariya Sukrung- Bangkok Post
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.