Liesl Krone has proven that food safety is a topic of interest to consumers of all ages. Liesl, an eighth grader at Acton Middle School in Granbury, Texas, entered her research project titled, "What Pesticides Have You Eaten Today?" in the 62nd Fort Worth Regional Science Fair earlier this spring, placing second and advancing to the Exxon Mobile Texas Science and Engineering Fair held in San Antonio, Texas, in March.
Liesl became interested in food safety after hearing discussions of food quality in the news. She loves fruit and was curious if she was eating any of the contaminants that were mentioned in the news reports. Like any curious young scientist, she decided to evaluate her favorite fruits, test them for pesticides, and investigate if washing or peeling the fruits was effective in removing pesticides. Liesl's study presented some very interesting findings, including the detection of a pesticide on grapes that is not allowed for use in the US (the grapes were interestingly noted as a product of Peru), and that washing grapes with water did not reduce their pesticide content. Liesl also learned that in the case of oranges and bananas, the majority of the pesticides are found in the peels (although she did detect some pesticides in the pulp as well), so consuming contaminants can easily be avoided for fruits that must be peeled. Her insightful conclusion: "It is still better to eat fruit than junk food, but maybe we need to eat fewer grapes!"
Liesl's project was supported through instrument time at Analytical Food Labs in Grand Prairie, Texas, QuEChERS sample preparation chemistry products provided by Restek, and scientific input from Andre Schreiber at SCIEX.
At the state science fair, she was nominated to compete in the Broadcom Masters Competition, a national science competition for sixth through eighth grade students, and she was encouraged to do a continuation project for the competition next year. We are excited (and nervous) to see what new findings Liesl may uncover in our food in her next project.
In July, Liesl presented her work at the 50th annual Florida Pesticide Residue Workshop/North American Chemical Residue Workshop (NACRW) in St. Pete Beach, Florida. At the meeting, she was able to present her studies to Steve Lehotay of the USDA and Michelangelo Anastassiades of CVUA Stuttgart, who were the originators of the QuEChERS sample preparation approach that Liesl used in her experiments. Liesl made a great impression on the scientists at NACRW, and she earned the best-liked poster award voted on by the conference attendees.
Congrats to Liesl on a great project and for going on record as the youngest SCIEX user.