(This guide to avoiding fluoride at the grocery story was produced by the Fluoride Action Network, which is working to get fluoride out of public water systems. It was first published on the FAN website in August 2012, and remains completely relevant today.)
Over the past 100 years, the levels of fluoride in foods purchased at the grocery store have increased. The reason for this increase is multi-fold, and includes the mass fluoridation of water supplies in some countries, the introduction of fluoride-based pesticides, and the use of mechanical deboning processes in the meat industry.
So, how do you know which beverages and foods at the grocery store are most likely to contain elevated fluoride, and which of these products are most important to avoid? To answer these questions, FAN has produced the following seven “general rules.” The more you remember these rules when you shop, the more you will reduce your fluoride intake.
General Rule #1: The Naturally Occurring Level of Fluoride In Food & Water Is Very Low
The naturally occurring levels of fluoride in fruits, vegetables, meat, grain, eggs, milk, and fresh water supplies are generally very low (less than 0.1 ppm). There are only three exceptions to this rule that you need to know: seafood, tea, and water from deep wells all have elevated fluoride levels in the absence of human activity. Thus, besides tea, seafood, and deep well water, you don’t have to worry about mother nature adding to your fluoride intake.
General Rule #2: The More Processed a Food Is, the More Fluoride It Will Have
The fluoride level in food generally increases during industrial food-making processes. This is particularly true in countries with mass water fluoridation programs (e.g., United States), since it is common for food processors to use the public water supply to make their products. When you buy a beverage or food, therefore, think of how much industrial processing would have been required to get the product in the shape it’s in. The more processing, the more fluoride. Juice that is not made from concentrate will have less fluoride than reconstituted juice, a roast chicken breast will have less fluoride than a chicken nugget, etc, etc.
General Rule #3: We Get More Fluoride from Liquids than Solid Foods
If you have to choose between limiting your fluoride intake from beverages or limiting it from foods, you should definitely focus on limiting it from beverages. This is because we get far more fluoride from liquid, than food. If you have to choose between buying grape juice and raisins that are both contaminated with fluoride pesticide, buy the raisins and skip the juice.
General Rule #4: Flavored Beverages = Fluoridated Water
If you live a country with widespread water fluoridation, most flavored beverages that you buy (e.g., soda, sports drinks, juice drinks, beer) have between 5 and 10 times more fluoride (0.5 to 1.0 ppm) than bottled water and other sources of fresh water (0.1 ppm). One way to cut down on your exposure to these sources is to buy juice instead of juice drinks. (And, remember, don’t buy juice that is made from concentrate.)
General Rule #5: Organic Food Has Less Fluoride Than Conventional
Organic food has less fluoride than non-organic food due to the use of fluoride pesticides on a range of conventionally produced items (particularly, grapes, dried beans, pinto beans, dried fruit, walnuts, tree nuts, cocoa powder). Your daily fluoride exposure will thus be reduced if you eat more organic fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes.
General Rule # 6: Grape Beverages = Fluoride Pesticide
Due to heavy use of fluoride pesticides on vinyards in the United States, beverages that are made from conventionally grown U.S. grapes are the main way people are exposed to fluoride pesticides. The best way to reduce your exposure to fluoride pesticides, therefore, is to avoid consumption of non-organic U.S. grape juice and wine, particularly white grape juices and wines. After eliminating this exposure source, focus next on reducing your consumption of non-organic U.S. raisins, dried beans, pinto beans, dried fruit, walnuts, and tree nuts.
General Rule #7: Processed Meats = More Fluoride
The more industrial processing that a meat product has had, the more likely it will contain elevated fluoride. This is because the meat industry uses a mechanical deboning process that contaminates the meat with higher levels of fluoride-laden bone particles. This is particularly true with chicken meats. A chicken nugget will thus contain more fluoride than a roast chicken; and a slice of sandwich chicken meat will contain more fluoride than a slice from a roasted chicken.