Saturday, 9 August 2003

Pesticides in fruits, vegetables


August 9, 2003
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Aug 8: It's not just soft drinks which are loaded with high levels of poisonous chemicals. Fresh fruits and vegetables, milk, cheese, ice creams, sweets, and chicken too have residues of harmful chemicals in them, scientists said.
A WHO study several years back had revealed that pesticide levels even in human milk in India were alarmingly high, Prof S A Abbasi, senior professor and director, Centre for Pollution Control and Energy Technology at the Pondicherry University, said.
Laboratory studies have shown that more than 60 per cent of vegetable and fruit samples collected from different parts of Andhra Pradesh are contaminated with harmful pesticides. Experts are particularly alarmed over the presence of DDT in samples of fruits and vegetables grown in the State.
According to a report of the Food Protectants and Infestation Control Department of the Central Food Technological Research Institute, Mysore, high levels of DDT residues had been reported from Andhra Pradesh, "probably due to intensive application of DDT for vector control under the malaria irradiation programme".
Agro-products grown in the State are so contaminated with pesticides that several European nations have imposed restrictions on their import. The situation is so alarming that the Central government has reportedly instructed a major public laboratory in the city not to publish its test findings in the annual report.
"We used to carry the details in our publications till two years ago. Now we have been asked to report the data only to Delhi," a senior official admitted.
As against the maximum residual value of 5 ppm fixed for DDT by the WHO and the Food and Agriculture Organisation, samples from the State contained DDT up to 3 ppm. Though the residual level is below the MRL, the very presence of DDT points to the extent of pesticide contamination in food products.
Studies by the city-based NIN on 68 fruit and vegetable samples and the Pesticide Residue Laboratory of Angrau on scores of samples revealed that most of the fruits and vegetables tested were contaminated with pesticides and insecticides. Agro products like guava, banana and leafy vegetables were relatively free of contaminants.
While NIN conducted tests on 10 varieties of grapes, apples, mangoes, potatoes, beans, carrots and tomatoes, the university laboratory studied lady fingers, tomatoes, mangoes, grapes, brinjals and cauliflower.
The agro products were obtained both directly from fields and from city markets. Vegetables are grown on just three per cent of the total cultivable area in the State and yet the pesticide consumption is as high as 14 per cent. Taking body weight into account, children consume three to 21 times more of these agro products than adults do, exposing them to higher risk.
"The pesticide residues are well within the MRL values. Even these quantities can be eliminated by thoroughly washing the vegetables or fruits. About 90 per cent of the residues can be eliminated from wheat and rice by washing the grains several times. The toxicity or otherwise of these pesticides depend on the acceptable daily intake ratio", NIN deputy director S Babu told Deccan Chronicle.
The studies revealed the presence of harmful chemicals like carbaril, monocrotofos, phosalone, dimethioate, cypermethrin, feneolerate, Melathion, phanpimethane, mithamil, prophenophos, permethrin, metalaxil, diethane M45, ridonil MZ, carbandizam, diophinatemythyl and deltamethrin.
According to Central Integrated Pest Management Centre sources, Guntur, Prakasam, Krishna, Khammam and Warangal districts are notorious for their high intake of pesticides.

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