Pesticides And Fresh Produce

Pesticides And Fresh Produce

 April 11th, 2011
Posted By:

Congo african grey

I make it a point to read the comments following each blog I post. I try to answer as many questions as I can, make suggestions and offer support or encouragement where needed. The other day I came across this very important comment.  I want to thank Barbara DelGiudice for cross-posting this from the Remembering Alex Group to our blog page:

“…a friend just lost her 2 african greys within minutes after eating grapes from a
well known big box store. she washed them and gave them to her parrots. the
first parrot died within minutes of eating the grapes, the other parrot was dead
20 minutes later.

the necropsies showed now abnormalities- still waiting for the toxicology
reports. the one necropsy was performed by dr. zantop from maryland and the
other necropsy was performed by dr. davidson at new bolton. both veterinarians
believe it was due to possible chemical poisoning from the grapes.

the department of agriculture at university of penn has been notified and an
investigation is pending. the grapes, as well as pellets and other fruit are
being tested for toxins.

i post this with the hope that others will not have to experience such a loss.
if you don’t already– please consider feeding only organic fruits and veggies
to your parrots. certain fruits/veggies, such as grapes are heavily sprayed
with chemicals that can be toxic. try and buy local rather than imported.
regulatory practices in other countries vary greatly in regard to the
management of produce.

feel free to cross-post. i will update the group about the toxicology findings
when they come in…”

Congo african grey

I posted this to the birdtricks facebook page. Immediately there was a sense of panic with everyone who read it. This is pretty scary stuff.  Here we are trying to feed our birds the best possible diet, and tragedy strikes. There isn’t a bird alive that doesn’t LOVE grapes. I pointed out that this wasn’t really about grapes and that all produce needs to be eyed suspiciously.The fact is that we live in a world full of toxins and this time the message just happened to be hammered home with grapes.  I don’t want anyone to stop feeding fresh foods because of this. There are things we can do to reduce the possibility of this happening in our homes.

A solution, in part, to this problem would be to buy only organic produce. Organic food growers use only natural means of protecting their crops rather than synthetic or chemical pesticides that remain on, sometimes in, the foods we eat. Regulations state that fertilizers used for organic growth must not be petroleum or sewage-based. They must be grown in safe soil, have no genetic modification and be kept apart from regular produce. Of course, there are also nutritional advantages to organically grown foods.

Unfortunately, there are some drawbacks. Organic foods are not readily available to all, there is a higher cost and even though demand is currently exceeding supply for organic foods, I have, at times, opted to buy conventional products over organic ones because they are past their prime.

I take this last “drawback” as an acceptable and inevitable one. Once a fruit or vegetable has been picked and severed from the plant that sustained it as it grew, it begins to die. THIS is normal. Fresh foods do not have a long shelf life. If it does NOT begin to wither after a short while, something is wrong. (The last time I expressed these thoughts in a post, some USDA guy found fault with my reasoning. He suggested that I’m a conspiracy theorist because I feel I should outlive the tomatoes I buy.)

According to these fruits and vegetables retain the highest residue of pesticides, and should, therefore, be bought organically

  • Apples
  • Bell Peppers
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Cherries
  • Grapes (imported)
  • Kale (I would include ALL leafy greens in this category)
  • Lettuce
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Strawberries

Rosebreasted cockatoo

The following list of fruits and vegetables have thicker skins and rinds making them more naturally resistant to insects and fungi. The result is the use of less pesticides:

  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Corn (sweet)
  • Eggplant
  • Kiwi
  • Mango
  • Papaya
  • Pineapple
  • Peas (sweet)
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Watermelon

It’s almost impossible to buy ALL of our foods organically for different reasons. When we do buy conventionally grown produce, try to see that it is grown in our own country, although my research is telling me that our own use of pesticides is not that much lower than in other, less regulated, countries. states that these foreign grown foods are the highest in their use of pesticides:

  • Chilean grapes
  • Canadian and Mexican carrots
  • Mexican broccoli and tomatoes
  • Argentine and Hungarian apple juice
  • Brazilian orange juice.

The same source also states that these domestically grown foods ranked higher in pesticides than in foreign grown product:

  • fresh peaches
  • fresh and frozen winter squash
  • fresh green beans
  • apples
  • pears

Are we all thoroughly freaked out yet?? Yeah, me too.

Blue throated macaw

There are some options for those times that we must buy conventionally grown produce. The first, and most obvious, is washing everything well before serving. I need to stress here that water alone is not enough to fully remove pesticides. If it was, the farmers would be in trouble every time it rained. How odd that rain and plant health might prove incompatible to modern farmers. Their solution? Water resistant poisons. Brilliant!

Making matters worse is that many foods are waxed (with food-grade wax – an interesting term) to prolong shelf life and improve appearance, locking in the pesticides we are trying to remove.

When you are washing your food, take into account all of the inaccessible areas on its surface. Broccoli, for instance, poses a challenge in this area being so intricate and tightly packed. Soaking broccoli and other textured produce for 10 -15 minutes is recommended, but I recommend soaking all fruits and vegetables.
Some people use a drop or two of dishwashing liquid, some people use a peroxide solution. I prefer a 3 parts water to 1 part vinegar solution. It works beautifully, and I know vinegar will not harm me or my birds. I also keep some ready in a spray bottle for a quick washing because it works quickly and effectively.

Camelot macaw

Another method is peeling. This process will considerably reduce any pesticide residue left behind after washing. The problem with this method is that the edible rinds and the layers right inside of it contains the highest nutrients and we would also be losing those.

Finally, there’s a gizmo on the market that seems both scientifically and ecologically sound. The Biosafe Plasma Detoxifier was brought to our attention by Ahmed Haitham, one of those who responded to the facebook post mentioned above. Thanks Ahmed. I am pretty intrigued, but I can’t for the life of me find a price on one of them.

Camelot macaw

Pesticides and toxins are a part of today’s world. It is a fact that we have to live with everyday.Unfortunately, it is the smallest, our children and our birds, that are most vulnerable to their effects. Again, a solution to this problem is NOT eliminating fresh foods from the diet. By doing that, you will, without doubt, be jeopardizing your bird’s health. Its up to us to take whatever measures we must to ensure that our foods are safe.  If that means a little extra work, then so be it.

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32 Comments on “Pesticides And Fresh Produce”

Stacey Prahl  04/12/2011 1:08 am

My Red-Lored snubbed grapes on more than one occasion. She will only eat Fruit inside a pie!

Ahmed Haitham  04/12/2011 2:05 am

Hi Guys.
I just love birdtricks articles.
Im really happy that you guys also like this.The Biosafe Plasma Detoxifier.
The Video you posted here is the official product guide video they released.

Actually we don’t only use is for Kuki (our Blue and gold macaw) Before we eat fruits and veggie we also wash it using this machine. Even my Daughter who is now 5months+ we wash her toys and her fruits and veggies too.

You guys can contact me via email or FB.

It cost something around USD550-USD600.If you guys really want one. we both can arrange away to buy it and ship to your location. Its net weight is 3Kg.

Aida  04/12/2011 10:02 pm

What about grapefruit seed extract (to soak fresh produce in, or spray it with)?

Bob  04/12/2011 10:37 pm

The root cause was most likely the origin of the grapes. Fruit grown in Chile and similar areas contains pesticide IN the fruit. Farmers there poison the soil, not the topical sprays used in the USA. Grapes seem to be the worst since the birds love them and they absorb a lot of pesticide from the root system. We discard ALL fruit from Chile.

Ryan Lobo  04/13/2011 3:18 am

Thank for your guideliness..

Ryan Lobo

Jo Young  04/13/2011 3:54 am

I’m in the UK so not sure how the pesticide situation compares to USA, I know we have some very strict rules in the UK but I’ve always soaked my birds fruit and veg in boiling water with a drop of vinegar – the breeder I got my first bird from advised me to do this as it’s the safest, surest way to make sure there are no nasty things on any of the things I give including pesticides or fungus – only fruit that doesn’t respond well to hot water is pear which I soak in cold water with vinegar – the vinegar has added benefit it stops the fruit going a yucky brown too quick.

I also give frozen veg as a treat but only buy organic frozen

gary  04/13/2011 4:29 am

i’ve had my african grey for forty years. got him as a fledged chick. “beart” is my pal. everyday he gets a smorgasboard of fresh fruits and vegetables. i try to wash everything he gets as thoroughly as possible, but, granted some residue probably remains. instead of just a quick rinse, try to clean hard fruits and veggies with a cloth and running water, and the soft, rinse every surface well; and rinse again. if you care about your bird, it’s woth the extra effort.

Dave Blakemore  04/13/2011 7:23 am

That little “well” at the top of an apple, the reservoir for toxin collection… Sitting on the tree just collecting all the spray that is applied, and then as the liquid evaporates the toxins becoming more and more concentrated.

That top section of apple always goes straight into the garbage. Soaking would not clean it off enough for me.

Cathy  04/13/2011 7:31 am

I have the opposite problem with my cockatoo, he won’t eat fruit or veggies. My other birds love them but he just throws them out while looking at me like why are you serving me this.

Fawzia  04/13/2011 8:58 am

Thanks for the important info will use the vinegar from now onwards

Annelize  04/13/2011 9:43 am

Nonsense! You are probably using jet fuel or nuclear fallout on your fruit and veg!! I have 5 parrots enjoyng their ALL their fruit and vegs daily -NON ORGANIC – for years.

Joan  04/13/2011 9:53 am

Great info, my Blue & Gold Casey loves fruits and veggies will try the vinegar wash. Thanks Chet for always sharing your information for our beloved birdies.

Nell Matthews  04/13/2011 9:53 am

My sun conure must inspect anything I eat. As a vegetarian, I like avocado sandwiches because of the good omega 3 fats, taste, etc. When I offered a bite to Cheddar, he hesitated, grinding his beak, and ultimately refusing. I later read about the toxic nature of avocados to birds. Whew! Dodged a bullet there. Anyway, I will carefully inspect and wash. Thanks, Chet.

Don  04/13/2011 11:04 am

Great information. I’ve been feeding fresh fruits and veggies to my parrots and cockatoos for over 20 years without any signs of toxicity but I may begin taking additional precautions. I routinely triple wash all produce before serving it but will add the vinegar soak from now on.

Cynthia-Val Chapman  04/13/2011 11:59 am

Thanks for raising our awareness of the prevalence of pesticides in our produce! This is, IMHO, even more important for people owned by small parrots (green-cheeked conure) such as myself. My vet warned me about grapes a while ago… good that the bird-loving community is being schooled. Keep up the good work… and I will try the vinegar wash and share with my friends.

Betsy  04/13/2011 2:36 pm

I have the same problem as you Cathy. My Goffin Cockatoo does not like fruits or veggies. I am lucky if she even touches it. Glad to hear I am not the only one with this problem.

Marcy  04/13/2011 4:04 pm

Thanks for all this valuable info!

Linda Newson  04/13/2011 5:31 pm

help! I thought the only seed that was toxic was the apple seed – I give my african grey the centre of a green or red pepper with the seeds and all – he loves it – he also gets raw pumpkin and squash seeds – oh oh

Aileen  04/14/2011 10:49 am

Farmers markets are also a great source for fruits and veggies. Most of the farmers, even if they are not “certified” organic still practice organic gardening,

Patty  04/14/2011 8:54 pm

Hi Linda,
Don’t worry! Pepper seed and pumpkin and squash seeds are fine. Here’s a link to a post about those that are dangerous:

Patty  04/14/2011 9:00 pm

Hi Bob,
I also suspect that the grapes were Chilean. I read about the farming practices there – very frightening. I simply don’t buy foods grown outside of this country anymore. Although, it isn’t a whole lot better here.

Victoiria  04/15/2011 12:24 am

Thank You so much for all your great info I love my birdies so much I want to keep them health and happy.

Rick Kusrow  04/15/2011 4:48 am

Make the store pay!!!! If I lost my bird to poisen produce the store would pay and pay dearley. Sue them! I know an African gray baby costs 1500.00$ here in Nevada. My Blue and Gold is 2000.00$ When you go to a lawyer and the press and tell them that the store is selling toxic produce, The store will pay and pay fast! It won’t bring them back but you will get some satisfaction. And maybe the word will get out to the supermarkets about where they buy their produce. Be American, only buy American and in season. Maybe thats why all our children are allergic to everything today. From toxic foods that we buy from other countries!

Gina  04/15/2011 5:30 pm

I also use frozen vegetables and frozen fruits being they are flash frozen fresh and often times contain far l ess repeat sprayings of pesticides that takes place in warehouses.

Jessica  04/15/2011 9:21 pm

Thankyou for all the different things you bring to my attention ! i have some friends who buy 95%
of their fruit organic. my rainbow lori wont eat any fruit that isnt hanging up. but ill be more careful about the fruit i give her.

Jessica  04/15/2011 9:25 pm

Thankyou for all the different things you bring to my attention ! i have some friends who buy 95%
of their fruit organic. my rainbow lori wont eat any fruit that isnt hanging up. but ill be more careful about the fruit i give her.Thanks!

Jo Morgan  04/20/2011 11:17 pm

Thank you all for the information you have given so freely. I am the new ‘owner’ of a Sun Conure and love him/her deeply., Ignorance on my behalf could kill him (TomTom). I look forward to all new informative information.

Dinah Lacy  04/21/2011 3:53 pm

Thanks for the useful info. I just came back out of my birds room and my gosh my sissy had laid a egg. I know I should take it out of her cage, should I look for any signs after taking it out?

Maria  04/22/2011 3:08 am

Soaking fruit and veges in water mixed with baking soda is also an effective (and economic) way of removing residues. Sometimes I add some vinegar or lemon juice to the baking soda. Use this method when preparing food for my baby girl (my cockatiel and budgie finish the rest off).

Joyce  04/22/2011 5:00 pm

Hello, Thanks for sharing this info. I lucked out because this is my first visit to this site. I have a rescue Citron Cockatoo who was turned back 3 times. Her name is Luna and she was raised on seed only. For 3 years now I have bathed this girl in veggies and fruit. Always wondering why they turned her back due to her 10 personality. One day she pulled all her feathers and continues to do so. The other change was that she adored fruit , kiwi being her favorite, every morning and now only will eat an occassional piece of banana. The feather damage continues despite Avicalm, missing link etc. I hope the soaking and vinegar make the difference. This was a perfect eater who now is very picky and thin. One other question I have is it was my understanding that Asparagus is poison for a bird. I gave it to Luna and it was her favorite until I read differently. Thanks again, Joyce and Luna

Anna.N  05/02/2013 11:00 am

Is teak or recycled teak wood dangerous for African Grey? We want to buy a new table, please advise

video games  09/22/2014 2:47 pm

Good post. I definitely appreciate this site. Thanks!