Monday, September 27, 2010

Poison Apple: Organic Fruit and Soy Allergies

A couple of years ago, my daughter and I were enjoying an idyllic fall afternoon picking apples and peaches. I had chosen an orchard that promoted itself as "using organic methods" although it did not yet have organic certification. Feeling good about supporting my local farmer and eating natural food, we sang and chatted with friends while we picked.

Life was good until my daughter started complaining that she was itchy. By the time we got to the parking lot, she was covered in hives and her face was beginning to swell. I could not figure out what had caused this reaction, because she hadn't eaten anything.  She had been carrying around a peach that she had picked, rubbing its soft fuzz on her cheek, but nothing had gone in her mouth. Besides, she wasn't allergic to peaches, or apples.

The reaction remained a mystery until a year later, when I purchased a bottle of eco-friendly horticultural oil to control an infestation of scale on my lilacs. Horticultural oil, promoted as a natural alternative to insecticides, is most often a petroleum product, but new, "green" products are being made from plant oils, such as canola, sunflower, or soybean oil. The one I bought turned out to be soybean oil. Whoops.

Horticultural oils are often used on fruit trees, which can get infested with small insects or mildew that can damage fruit. The oil is sprayed all over the tree, soaking into the bark and coating any leaves, flowers, or fruit, to suffocate the small insects.  Soybean oil is also being used as a pruning agent for peaches.

That peach didn't come with a warning label that said "may contain soy."  In fact, I've never seen a fruit or vegetable with a warning label on it of any kind.
I have, however, started washing my fruit with soap.

As more and more uses are discovered for soy, it becomes more and more present in our environment and our lives.  Soy is the raw ingredient of many non-food products, from biodiesel, to soap, to teddy bear fluff.  If you or a loved one has a soy allergy, it is important to read product labels -- not just of food, but of lotions, shampoos, and, of course, any garden sprays you might be using in your yard.


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