Eat veggies but not in the raw, say docs

Jan 28, 2013, 09:49 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon

After going through the lab reports of analyses done on the water used for cultivating and cleaning vegetable produce, food experts and doctors warn against the chemicals and microbes present in the samples

Poison on your plateDr Jagdish Pai, executive director, Protein Foods & Nutrition Development Association of India, and former head of food technology department at Mumbai University, said, “I find the presence of most chemicals and micro-organisms fairly significant but within limits.

I am especially worried about the sewage water which contains coliform bacteria as well as E coli, both harmful contaminants. Heavy metals, although present in low levels, have a tendency of accumulating in organs and becoming toxic, leading to ailments.

There are traces of cadmium, whose long-term consumption can cause severe health problems. If such contamination is superficial, it can be removed by simple rinsing. If not, even cooking will not eradicate it. Since spinach and radish are often consumed raw as salad, with or without washing, they pose a health hazard.”




(From top) A makeshift toilet that discharges waste into a gutter whose water is used for growing and, ironically, washing vegetables in Thakurli; farmers on the field at Kalwa; an old man scrubs radishes in a grimy pond in Thakurli; a hosepipe attached to a pump that draws water from the same pond for cultivation. Pics/Shrikant Khuperkar

Dr K D Yadav, president of All India Association of Food Scientists & Technologists, said, “People cultivating the produce need to be educated about the right farming methods. Such contaminated vegetables are prone to spoilage. Microbial load will be present on them.

Eating such green leafy foods will be damaging if eaten raw without being treated first. Efforts should be made to involve government bodies to regulate farming and increase awareness among farmers for following better agricultural and irrigation practices.”

Clutch of diseases
Ketan Vagolakar, professor of surgery at DY Patil Medical College, said, “Acute gastroenteritis, hepatitis A, hepatitis E, typhoid, amoebiccholits and dysentery This is the entire spectrum of diseases which can be contracted by eating infected food.

The best safeguard is to avoid uncooked vegetables and have fully cooked or steamed vegetables, which kills microbes. As far as possible, one must avoid buying grocery from roadside vendors where chances of contagion cannot be ruled out.”

Dr Wiqar Shaikh, the noted allergy specialist, professor of medicine at Grant Medical college, and head of medicine at JJ Group of Hospitals, said, “I have no issue with the places where the vegetables are grown, but I am concerned about the soil being contaminated and in the manner they are washed. The presence E. coli only multiplies the worry.

“While allergies can be tackled, parasitic and bacterial infection is worrisome. In case the produce is affected by ESBL (extended spectrum beta lactamase) bacteria which enters the human body, they become resistant to common antibiotics.” 

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