Pesticide residue found in food across the country
KATHMANDU, April 23: A nationwide government survey of cooked food items has found residue of banned pesticides in cereals, pulses, vegetables, beaten rice and bread. The survey was sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO).
“We found maximum concentration of pesticides, including the banned ones, in the vegetables,” senior food research officer of DFTQC, Dr Megh Raj Bhandari said.
The Department of Food Technology and Quality Control (DFTQC) had conducted the survey across the country and the results from Kathmandu Valley made public earlier in January had also shown presence of alarming levels of pesticide residue.
The DFTQC had collected samples of dishes prepared in common people’s kitchen in 2009 and 2010 for analysis using the tool of Total Diet Study (TDS) to evaluate the risks posed by food contaminated with pesticides.
The DFTQC had collected random samples of food items from Ilam, Jhapa, Dhankuta, Morang and Sunsari in eastern region; Chitwan, Hetauda, Janakpur, Sindhupalchowk and Dhading in central region; Gorkha and Kaski in western region; Nepalgunj and Surkhet in mid-west; and Mahendranagar, Dadeldhura, Kanchanpur and Doti in far west.
Dr Bhandari said all the food items were contaminated with green leafy vegetables containing the highest concentration of pesticide mixtures. Endosulfan, chlorpyriphos, malathion, parathion methyl, profenophos, cypermethrin and lambda- cyhalothrin were detected in green leafy vegetables.
Residue of chlorpyrophos, malathion, cypermethrin and fenvalerate were found in bread.
Bhandari said the contamination of bread is alarming because of its common use in breakfast.
He suggested the residues in bread might be due to use of pesticides during storage of wheat.
He blamed the excessive pesticides in food on non-adherence of good agricultural practices. “Excessive use of pesticides and not allowing sufficient time for pesticides to decompose before harvesting are the major reasons of contamination,” Dr Bhandari said.
The samples tested by DFTQC were further analyzed at Vimta Lab, Hyderabad, India.
The contamination of food with pesticides may lead to acute food poisoning with symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, dizziness and numbness, the report says. In severe cases, the victim may even have difficulties breathing, blurred vision and convulsion.
Prolonged consumption of vegetables with excessive pesticides may also damage the nervous system or other organs such as liver and kidneys. Some pesticides may be transferred unknowingly to infants through breast milk thereby affecting development of the baby.
Director General of the DFTQC, Jeevan Prabha Lama said the main purpose of the study was to protect diets from chemical contaminants by monitoring exposure levels to the general population over time.
“Presence of banned pesticides is a serious concern which needs to be monitored properly,” she said adding, “Improper use and use of banned pesticides, is one of the key problems affecting the health of Nepali consumers.”