Sunday, 15 February 2004

Indians consume more DDT through foods, thanks to Centre's norms

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Feb 15: Indians will continue to consume more amounts of poisonous DDT through meat and poultry, if the Central government has its way.
While the WHO-FAO controlled Codex Alimentarius Commission favoured the maximum residual level (MRL) for the harmful pesticide, DDT, to be fixed at 0.1 to 3 mg per kg of poultry and meat, India has been arguing that the MRL should be 5 mg per kg. The present MRL for DDT world-wide is 5 mg per kg and Codex wants to bring it down to cut the quantum of the pesticide residue entering the body.
The argument put forth by the Codex India under the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is that 5 mg DDT per kg of poultry or meat will not cause harm either to the health of the people or the industry. Strangely enough the Indian government, which first proposed the DDT levels in 2003, continues to stand by its argument. Even the mid-term Codex Plan of the MHFW supports the view that DDT levels should be at 5 mg per kg.
Health experts, however, warn that regulat intake of DDT in minute quantities will have a synergetic effect on the overall functioning of the body. Eminent gastroenterologist Dr SC Samal of Apollo Hospitals warns DDT even in minute quantities will cause cancer and peripheral neuropathy, affecting the nervous system.
Many countries including the USA have banned DDT and have stringent regulations on DDT MRLs in food products. If the Codex India succeeds in its argument, Indians will have to consume DDT at least double the quantity fixed by other countries.
Codex Alimentarius Commission is in the process of finalising standards for food products including vegetables, fruits, processed food, meat and poultry. At least two Codex meetings are slated for this year and according to Codex sources here, India wants to safeguard the poultry and meat industry in view of local conditions. For instance, while DDT is banned in many countries, the product continues to make its way in the Indian agriculture system. Animals grazing on fields build up DDT residues in their bodies and this passes on to human beings through food chain.
According to the Codex India website, which contains the minutes of various Codex meetings, India supported the establishment of MRLs for DDT at appropriate level to "ensure consumer protection but not a lower level, which might result in difficulty to trade". The Codex India feels that 5 mg of DDT per kg is "appropriate".
Even the Regional Co-ordinator for Asia expressed reservation on the proposed draft on MRLs for DDT at 0.1-.3 mg/kg. in poultry, meat.
"India, therefore, strongly recommends the EMRL for DDT should
be fixed at 5 mg/kg on meat (on fat basis)," the website points out.
While arguing its case on pesticide residues in spices, the Codex India observes, "when analysis are performed for monitoring purposes it is
especially important that confirmatory data are generated before
reporting on samples containing pesticides that are not normally
associated with that commodity or where MRLs have been exceeded.
Samples may contain interfering chemicals that may be misidentified as
pesticides. So, while reporting the monitoring data on spices,
confirmatory data for some of the pesticides samples should be reported."

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