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Garlic – Is the joke on us?

Mar 07, 2021

By Annisa Essack

07:03:2021

Garlic has been recognised as a valuable ingredient in the fight against COVID-19. However, what looks to be a perfectly natural ingredient could be treated with chemicals.

China is by far the largest garlic grower, producing about 500,000 tons a year. The next biggest is the US, with about 70,000 tons annually. Due to the reduced labour costs of manual processing that garlic requires, the bulk of the world’s garlic is produced in China, countries that accept imported garlic do so as it is cheaper.

Chinese garlic, though, does not meet the food safety protocols, particularly those in Australia. According to the Australian Garlic Industry Association, garlic from China is soaked in chemicals to whiten, to stop it from sprouting and to kill insects. Furthermore, the association reports that garlic grown in China is done so in untreated sewage.

Chlorine or a mixture of sulphur and wood ash are used to clean garlic. Bleaching or whitening helps give the garlic a healthy and attractive look to consumers. The obsession with white food has, in fact, led to the bleaching of many foods, flour, sugar and salt, using chlorine dioxide and benzoyl peroxide.

Sprouting garlic means loss of potency and to stop the garlic from sprouting, growth inhibitors are used, and can be made from hormones or chemicals. Growth inhibitors together with gamma irradiation also extend shelf life.

In some countries, garlic regardless of origin is fumigated, with methyl bromide. Methyl bromide is a potent chemical, colourless gas and used as an insecticide, fungicide and, herbicide. The chemical has a variety of uses such as controlling pests; protecting stored grains and dried fruit; industrial feedstock; degreasing wool; and extracting oils from nuts, seeds, and flowers. According to the UN, it is 60 times more damaging than chlorine and is the base of Chlorofluorocarbons.

Inhaled or absorbed through the skin, it can be toxic to both humans and animals causing chemical burns, kidney damage and damage to the central nervous system.

Organic garlic, despite the higher cost, will provide the taste and health benefits we love but not the toxic consequences of chemicals.

So, the joke may be on us because whilst the idea that garlic has become the currency to trade in, even for mahr,  it may be slowly making us sick or even killing us!

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