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Food Addit Contam. 2005 Dec;22(12):1203-8.

Evaluation of the nitrate content in leaf vegetables produced through different agricultural systems.

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Faculty of Food Engineering, Department of Food Science, State University of Campinas, PO Box 6121, 13084-971 Campinas, SP, Brazil.


The nitrate content of leafy vegetables (watercress, lettuce and arugula) produced by different agricultural systems (conventional, organic and hydroponic) was determined. The daily nitrate intake from the consumption of these crop species by the average Brazilian consumer was also estimated. Sampling was carried out between June 2001 to February 2003 in Campinas, São Paulo State, Brazil. Nitrate was extracted from the samples using the procedure recommended by the AOAC. Flow injection analysis with spectrophotometric detection at 460 nm was used for nitrate determination through the ternary complex FeSCNNO+. For lettuce and arugula, the average nitrate content varied (p < 0.05) between the three agricultural systems with the nitrate level in the crops produced by the organic system being lower than in the conventional system that, in turn, was lower than in the hydroponic system. For watercress, no difference (p < 0.05) was found between the organic and hydroponic samples, both having higher nitrate contents (p < 0.05) than conventionally cultivated samples. The nitrate content for each crop species varied among producers, between different parts of the plant and in relation to the season. The estimated daily nitrate intake, calculated from the consumption of the crops produced by the hydroponic system, represented 29% of the acceptable daily intake established for this ion.

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