FSSAI Under Fire for Increasing Pesticide Limit In Spices

The decision of the FSSAI to raise the Pesticide Limit In Spices and culinary herbs has been met with criticism. This action has raised concerns among scientists and experts about its potential effect on public health.

The April 8, 2024, order indicated that pesticides’ maximum residue limit (MRL) has significantly risen from 0.01 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) to 0.1 mg/kg. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) defines MRL as the maximum allowable concentration of pesticide residue in food or animal feed that is legally acceptable.

According to Amit Khurana, the program director of sustainable food systems at the Centre for Science and Environment in New Delhi, if the FSSAI loses the limit, it will result in a higher intake of pesticides in the human body, leading to serious health effects.

Khurana indicated the need to release data that supports the decision to increase the values, stating that it should have been provided.

According to the Food Safety and Standards (Contaminants, Toxins and Residues) Regulation, 2011, the Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs) of pesticides for food and commodities, including species and culinary herbs, are specified.

The MRLs are determined based on field trial data received from the Central Insecticides Board and Registration Committee (CIBRC), Union Ministry of Agriculture and Family Welfare, as stated by the FSSAI.

However, Narasimha Reddy Donthi, an independent researcher and environmental justice activist, claims that there is no established procedure for using this data to establish MRLs.

Pesticide Limit In Spices

According to Dileep Kumar from the Pesticide Action Network, there is a need to expand residue monitoring of spices and culinary herbs to include testing for the most toxic pesticides being used. Information obtained through the Right to Information (RTI) by the All India Network Project on Pesticide Residues shows that the presence of residues has been increasing from 22.6% in 2018-19 to 35.9% in 2022-23.

Indian food that contains high levels of pesticide residue has faced trade restrictions from various foreign governments. The Singapore government recently recalled Everest, an Indian spice fish curry masala, due to the presence of the carcinogenic pesticide ethylene oxide.

Similarly, Hong Kong’s food regulatory body expressed concerns about the same group 1 carcinogen found in the food products of India’s MDH Pvt Ltd.

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