The State government has taken the first step towards food safety certification of domestic farm produce under an ambitious programme to ensure the supply of safe-to-eat products for consumers and minimise the health hazards posed by constant exposure to pesticide residue in vegetables and fruits.
Agriculture Minister V.S. Sivakumar on Thursday distributed safe-to-eat certificates to four farmers who supplied vegetables to the outlet. As many as 13 samples collected from the eco-shop were analysed at the Pesticide Residue Research and Analysis Laboratory at the College of Agriculture, Vellayani. “All the samples tested negative for the three major groups of pesticides, namely organochlorine, organophosphate and synthetic pyrethroid,” says Dr. Thomas Biju Mathew, principal investigator of the KAU’s Safe- to- Eat project. “It represents the first step towards the establishment of a monitoring mechanism to detect pesticide contamination at source.” The Kerala Agricultural University has plans to make the results available online, in a bid to extend the certification process to eco-shops across the State.
However, officials point out that a wider roll-out of the certification was beset with challenges. “For one, the logistics of collecting samples and transferring them to the laboratory is a daunting task. Getting the testing done before the product is put up for sale is no less important,” says an official. “Setting up a network of laboratories in the State is even more of a challenge.”
The KAU laboratory at Vellayani is the only one in the State equipped with a state-of-the-art Liquid Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer (LCMS) that could detect even minute traces of pesticide residue. “It takes a dedicated team of qualified and experienced personnel to run and maintain the equipment costing about Rs.2 crore. Establishing a network of such laboratories is easier said than done, considering the requirement of funds and manpower,” says a scientist.
Source : The Hindu