Our annual strawberry picking outing was this past week, and like we have done the past few years we went to Donaldson Farms in Hackettstown, New Jersey. It is a beautiful clean, neat and tidy farm with a few animals and a variety of crops, but we especially like to visit for the huge strawberry patch. While it is not a certified organic farm, we visit anyway because it is very well run. There are in fact no certified organic u-pick strawberry farms in Jersey, so until I find a farm that might invite us to pick, we go to Donaldson Farms. I was able to speak with them this time about why they are not organic, and in what ways they treat their strawberry crop. I grew up with a large homegrown strawberry patch and so I know well that strawberries require specific growing conditions, and too much rain and moisture is one of the biggest issues with growing strawberries. For this reason many strawberries are grown in greenhouse, in either soil or hydroponically so the water quantity can be precisely controlled, or they are grown on raised trellis so the berries are not sitting in wet soil. Donaldson Farm strawberries are open air, ground grown and as a consequence to protect their crops from rotting in very wet seasons, they use food grade hydrogen peroxide on the strawberries to stop mold growing (and pest too). This is a fairly common method to protect strawberry crops. When we picked we were told the strawberries had not been treated with hydrogen peroxide yet this season. I was pleased to hear this, but I am also aware that past occasions where they have been treated, means that the hydrogen peroxide run off goes into the soil, and residue is there to be absorbed by the roots of the plants. I wonder if this matters?
Which lead me to do a little research on food grade hydrogen peroxide.
Interestingly hydrogen peroxide can make its way into our diets and lifestyle in many ways because of its strong oxidising property, hydrogen peroxide is used as a bleaching agent in some foods such as wheat flour, edible oil, egg white etc. in countries like the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Soy lecithin which appears in many products is often bleached with hydrogen peroxide at least once, sometimes twice. Hydrogen peroxide is allowed to be used as an antimicrobial agent in food, e.g. cows milk, soy milk, and as a sterilizing agent for food packaging materials. You may also encounter hydrogen peroxide if you lighten your hair or bleach your teeth, and it is used to lighten cotton fabric.
Hydrogen peroxide is water that has extra oxygen in it. Made up of two hydrogen atoms and two oxygen atoms, it is known chemically as H2O2. Which does not sound bad! Pure or clean Hydrogen Peroxide is by no mean sinister, but I just like to know about it if it is used, in what ways it is used and what for?
At this point there is not conclusive studies how it affects our bodies or the environment, as stated bellow by the US FDA:
“Although there is no evidence that the present usage of hydrogen peroxide in foods poses a hazard to consumers, insufficient data are available to ensure a lack of hazard with all foods or when more rigorous treatments are employed, using higher concentrations, prolonged exposure, or elevated temperatures.
In the light of the foregoing considerations, the Select Committee concludes that:
There is no evidence in the available information on hydrogen peroxide that demonstrates or suggests reasonable grounds to suspect a hazard to the public when it is used at levels that are now current and in the manner now practiced. However, it is not possible to determine, without additional data, whether a significant increase in consumption would constitute a dietary hazard.”
My personal feelings is that it is good to be aware of hydrogen peroxide being a part of the process of many foods.
The more I read about food production and ingredients, the more I realise, that if I do not know how it is made, and I can not make it myself in my own kitchen, then I probably should not eat it….well at least not often! Organic fresh whole food eating and cooking is the way to go. We are all a little wiser now, and while we may keep up our annual tradition of strawberry picking at Donaldson Strawberry Farm, we will know to ask if the berries have been treated yet each season, and we will stick to purchasing organic produce at the supermarket. While buying organic may not be the most cost effective option I have learnt that nurturing our bodies with quality clean food is more important than a lot of other purchases we make. So good to remember, when it comes to budgeting our lifestyle, food first friends!
The girls are wearing beautiful dress from Mabo .