India Adopts Stringent Norms For Maximum Pesticide Residues Limit In Food Items: Govt

FSSAI is currently collecting samples of branded spices, including that of MDH and Everest, sold in the domestic markets to ensure they comply with its quality norms

The government on Sunday asserted that India has one of the most stringent norms for pesticides residues in food items and rejected reports suggesting that food regulator FSSAI allows high level of residues in spices and herbs.

The clarification comes amid a ban imposed by the Hong Kong food regulator on certain spice mix of two leading Indian brands MDH and Everest on alleged presence of pesticide Ethylene Oxide in their samples. The Singapore food regulator too ordered a recall of one spice product of the Everest brand.

FSSAI is currently collecting samples of branded spices, including that of MDH and Everest, sold in the domestic markets to ensure they comply with its quality norms. It does not regulate the quality of exported spices.

In a statement, the Union Health Ministry clarified that maximum residue limits are different for various food products based on risk assessment.

"Some media reports are claiming that the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) allows 10 times more pesticide residue in herbs and spices. Such reports are false and malicious," the ministry said.

India has one of the most stringent standards of Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) in the world, it asserted.

"MRLs of pesticides are fixed differently for different food commodities based on their risk assessments," the ministry explained.

Pesticides are regulated by the Ministry of Agriculture through the Central Insecticide Board and Registration Committee (CIB & RC) constituted under the Insecticide Act, 1968.

The CIB & RC regulate the manufacturing, import, transport, storage of pesticides and accordingly the pesticides are registered/ banned/restricted by CIB & RC.

Explaining the process of fixing pesticides residue limits, the health ministry said that the FSSAI's scientific panel on pesticides residues examines the data received through CIB & RC and recommends the MRLs after performing risk assessment.

The dietary consumption of the Indian population and health concerns in respect of all age groups are taken into account.

"Total pesticides registered by CIB & RC in India are more than 295, out of which 139 pesticides are registered for use in spices," the ministry said.

Codex has adopted a total 243 pesticides, out of which 75 pesticides are applicable for spices.

The ministry further said that a pesticide is registered on many food commodities with different MRLs based on risk assessment data.

For instance, the use of Monocrotophos is allowed on many crops with different MRLs such as rice at 0.03 mg/kg, citrus fruits at 0.2 mg/kg, coffee beans at 0.1 mg/kg and cardamom 0.5 mg/kg, Chilli at 0.2 mg/kg.

"The MRL of 0.01 mg/kg was applicable in case of pesticides for which MRLs have not been fixed.

"This limit was increased to 0.1 mg/kg only in cases of spices and is applicable only for those pesticides which are not registered in India by CIB & RC," the statement said.

This was recommended by the Scientific Panel on Pesticide Residues after considering the adoption of MRLs in the range 0.1 mg/kg and above by Codex Alimantarius Commission on Pesticide Residues on spices during 2021-23 in a phased manner for various spices in the world.

MRLs fixed by CODEX for spices and culinary herbs range from 0.1 to 80 mg/kg.

The ministry further explained that one pesticide/insecticide is used in more than 10 crops with different MRLs.

For example, Flubendiamide is used in brinjal with an MRL of 0.1, whereas for Bengal Gram the MRL is 1.0 mg/kg, for Cabbage 4 mg/kg, for Tomato 2 mg/kg and for Tea it is 50 mg/kg.

Similarly, Monocrotophos used for food grains with MRLs at 0.03 mg/kg, for citrus fruits 0.2 mg/kg, for dried chilli it is 2 mg/kg and for Cardamom 0.5 mg/kg.

The MRLs fixed by CODEX for Myclobutanil used for Chilli is 20 mg/kg whereas the limit set by FSSAI is 2mg/kg.

For Spiromesifen, used for Chilli, Codex limit is 5 mg/kg, whereas FSSAI limit is 1 mg/kg.

Similarly, Codex standards for Metalaxyl and Metalaxyl-M used for black pepper is 2mg/kg, whereas the limit set by FSSAI is 0.5 mg/kg.

The new Codex MRLs for Dithiocarbamates, Phorate, Triazophos and Profenophos for Fennel is 0.1 mg/kg.

"FSSAI aligns with the updated standards of MRLs set by Codex Alimentarius Commission (an International Food Safety and Quality Standard setting body created by WHO and FAO of UN) and the European Union," the statement said.

The MRLs are dynamic in nature and are regularly revised based on the scientific data, it added.

This practice is aligned with global standards and ensures that MRL revisions are made on a scientifically valid basis, reflecting the latest findings and international norms.

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