BUSINESS: Could Your Thanksgiving Food Contain Toxic Lead?

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By Daniel Webster, dWeb.News Publisher

NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Pure Earth, an international non-profit organization focused on fighting disease-causing pollution, responds to alarming study from Consumer Reports, “Your Herbs and Spices Might Contain Arsenic, Cadmium, and Lead.” The study is the latest in a growing list of publications revealing that toxic heavy metals like lead, cadmium, arsenic, and mercury are being detected in all types of foods in U.S. grocery stores. This report focuses on imported contaminated spices. Thyme is a key flavor in Thanksgiving stuffing.

As Pure Earth detailed in “Pollution Know No Borders: How the pollution crisis in low- and middle-income countries affects everyone’s health, and what we can do about it,” in 2019, pollution moves from countries lacking substantive pollution controls to the rest of the world. The impact of the global industrial pollution crisis in low income countries directly affects our daily lives in high income countries.

“It’s great that the Biden administration is increasing investment to prevent lead exposure domestically, but we won’t completely solve this problem until we prevent pollution at the source coming from countries with little pollution management infrastructure,” says Richard Fuller, CEO of Pure Earth. H.R. 2229, the Baby Food Safety Act of 2021–designed to protect infants from heavy metal contamination in popular brands of baby food–is stalled in Congress is baffling. The toxic lead found in baby food is getting to our homes the same way it is in spices.”

Toxins From The Global Farm To Your Table

Several studies have documented the increase in use of untreated industrial wastewater contaminated with toxic chemicals for crop irrigation by farmers lacking access to clean water. In countries like India and China, farmers are faced with climate-related water stress as well as the rapid growth of polluting plants around their fields. They have no choice but use toxic water. Farmers and their families are sickened by constant exposure to toxic water. The water poisoning can permanently damage the soil and cause it to absorb into the plants. This leads to global food market contamination, which exposes consumers all over the globe. (infographic)

The Lead Connection

Pure Earth and UNICEF alerted the world that 800 million children globally have elevated lead levels, and concluded a major source of this poisoning is the informal, open air recycling of lead-acid car batteries across Asia, Africa, and South America. These small-scale operators infected the food supply chain with lead at many points, infusing it in areas close to large produce markets or agricultural fields.

Can any multinational food conglomerate control all possible contamination routes and sources? It is impossible to control all imports at our borders.

The Solution: Public/Private Partnerships to Solve Pollution at the Source

The good news for our holiday tables is that solutions are at hand now. The same investments the US and other wealthy countries started making in pollution control in the 1970’s now need to be applied in low and middle-income countries.

The international community currently spends very little on pollution control. This must change and corporations can play a significant role in shifting priorities and resources to support their environmental sustainability efforts.

Although this may seem daunting, it is really just a matter focusing resources. Are we able to choose? Consumers should not have to tolerate toxic lead, mercury and cadmium contaminating baby food, protein powders, supplements & proteins, chocolates, rice and organic high-priced products. Fuller says that pollution is a global problem. “There is an invisible toxic thread that links workers being poisoned in poorer countries while growing crops or producing products, and all of us who are exposed to poisons while consuming these products.”

Additional resources:

Infographic – Learn how industrial pollution migrates from farm to table
Find out how much food we import from countries with high pollution levels
How do you protect your family? Click here for resources
Explore an interactive map and data visualization that includes global trade flows in spices and several other food products.

About Pure Earth –

Pure Earth is a leading nonprofit organization dedicated to saving and improving lives and protecting the planet by reducing disease-causing pollution in low- and middle-income countries. Pure Earth prioritizes actions that safeguard the brains and bodies in developing children and pregnant women who live in toxic hotspots, with a special emphasis on mercury and lead exposure. Pure Earth works with industry leaders, governments, and communities to raise pollution awareness and create sustainable change.

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