Transporting food thousands of miles farm to market has its consequences. Not only does this practice leave a heavy carbon footprint and mean food is not as fresh as if locally grown, but the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has found it also allows toxic chemicals to enter our food supply. Of particular concern are the plastic pallets "used to ship, cool and store produce." These pallets contain decabromodiphenyl ether (Deca), a toxic flame retardant that may be leaching into our food.
Deca is a neurotoxin and suspected carcinogen that persists in the environment and accumulates in human tissue. Millions of plastic pallets, each containing 3.4 pounds of Deca (according to industry estimates) are currently in use. These contaminated pallets could introduce millions of pounds of toxic fire retardant into the environment each year…
It is standard practice in the food industry to "hydro-cool" produce by submerging food stacked on pallets in water or by dripping water over stacked pallets containing produce. Preliminary studies strongly suggest that Deca leaches from pallets into the cooling water. Because water is recycled numerous times during the hydro-cooling process, considerable levels of Deca residue could be left on hydro-cooled produce.
EWG has asked the FDA to order the stoppage of the use of "Deca-treated plastic food pallets in the food industry." The FDA has not approved Deca pallets for hydro-cooling, yet the industry has taken up the practice. The plastic pallets are currently being used by "General Mills, Borders Melon Company, PepsiCo, Cott, Okray Family Farms, and Martoni Farms, with trials up and running at Dole Foods and Kraft," according to EWG. Richard Wiles, EWG's senior Vice President and for Policy and Communications explains:
Fruits and vegetables are an essential part of a healthy diet, but contaminated produce pallets could cause millions of men, women and children to consume harmful levels of a chemical neurotoxin. A toxic chemical designed to suppress fire should not be allowed to taint the food we eat.
My green interests were sparked as a youth, when I dreamed of being a Rainbow Warrior. I became a vegetarian at the age of sixteen and decided I wanted to live in the mountains sustainably. I’ve been living off the grid and growing my own food now for fourteen years. We have built an eco-home from salvage timber off our land, which we milled ourselves. We produce electrical power from our creek, and daily hikes are part of our family’s routine. Extending my eco-values to my children is only natural, as I try to raise world citizens with the smallest carbon footprint possible. It’s not always easy, with the commercialization of childhood, but I strongly believe my children will benefit in the long run. I am also a teacher, artist, and yoga instructor.