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The Thanksgiving meal is chock full of potential toxins – which ones can be avoided?

Updated: Feb 7, 2022

It’s that time of year again, when cooks turn their attention to foods they will buy for the Thanksgiving meal, where they will buy them from, and how they will prepare them.  My mother was a scratch cook for the most part – homemade stuffing from bead crust, onions and celery, gravy from pan drippings, and mashed potatoes from spuds.  When I have made Thanksgiving dinner I have opted to use processed gravy, boxed stuffing and packaged mashed potatoes in order to spend less time in the kitchen and more time with my family.  My sweet potato casserole is more or less from scratch, but I need to disclose that I top it with mini-marshmallows.  I do not recall anyone ever getting sick from any of the Thanksgiving meals prepared by either me or my mother, except for the one Thanksgiving some friends brought a pumpkin pie and left it out on the back porch because it would not fit in the refrigerator.  People that ate the pie got sick and those that abstained did not.  Although it was cold as a refrigerator outside it was a sunny day; consequently the pie was not kept as cold as we thought.

In this day and age, more consumers are turning to fresh, organic foods for the Thanksgiving meal. Many are convinced that they are doing a disservice to themselves and their families if they use processed foods or produce from conventional farms.  Blogs are full of horror stories about the long term adverse effects of use of such foods. One I find particularly amusing states that “nearly every food made in a factory is bad for you”[1]. The same article advocates making raw pumpkin pies and exposing fruits and vegetables to minimal heat during cooking. Another article states that “feeding our kids with organic food will significantly reduce their exposure to pesticide residues”[2].  These articles as well as countless others posted on the internet are biased in that they do not mention any risks whatsoever to organic foods. The reality is that there is some risk of toxicity from eating any food.

Toxic substances are naturally present in produce, even if grown organically.  There is no escaping exposure to microorganisms, mycotoxins, heavy metals, bioac