The international food standards body has adopted stringent laws on pesticides in food and arsenic residue in rice .
Pesticides have become a part and parcel of agriculture. Their rampant use leads to high residues in food, which is potentially dangerous to human health Credit
The United Nations food standards body, Codex Alimentarius Commission (Commission), met in Rome recently to take decisions on matters relating to food safety. It adopted guidelines to prevent salmonella in fresh beef and pork, to control parasites in food and update guidelines on nutrition labelling and residues of inorganic arsenic in husked rice.
It also adopted Maximum residue limits (MRLs) for 30 pesticides and adopted almost 400 food additives in specific foods, including antioxidants and preservatives. It initiated an overhaul of the existing guidelines on general principles of food hygiene and review of the existing guidelines on antimicrobial resistance.
Pesticides have become a part and parcel of agriculture. Their rampant use leads to high residues in food, which is potentially dangerous to human health.
The commission discussed the report of the 48th Session of the Codex Committee on Pesticide Residues held in China earlier this year.
However, based on risk assessments provided by a group of independent international experts (the Joint FAO/WHO expert meeting on pesticide residues), the commission has adopted MRLs for more than 30 different pesticides in various foods, along with revoking MRLs for a set of about 25 pesticides.
Effectively, the commission reduced MRLs substantially for pesticides like lindane and added MRLs for new food categories for pesticides like phorate, triazophos and propiconazole and imidacloprid.
Phorate and triazophos are considered “extremely hazardious” (class IA) and “highly hazardous” (class IB) respectively by the WHO.
Further, the commission has increased MRLs for many pesticides like cyantraniliprole, acetamiprid, fluopyram, imidacloprid, abamectin and propriconazole.
Out of 30 pesticides for which Codex adopted MRLs in the meeting, pesticides like flutriafol and fluxapyroxad are not registered in India.
However, despite the fact that pesticides such as fluopyram, cyantraniliprole, cyazofamid and floricamid are registered in India, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI ) does not provide MRLs.
For some pesticides such as Imidacloprid, Acetamiprid and Lufenuron, the current standards provide MRLs only for one or two food categories whereas Codex standards are much more detailed. India needs to set MRLs for more food categories for such pesticides.
The New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment has been working on the issue of pesticide regulation in India for over a decade and thinks that the pesticide management scenario needs to improve both in terms of law and practice.
It has been seen that some pesticides which are considered toxic around the world and are banned in many countries, are still used in India such as Benomyl, methyl parathion and phosphamidon.