FSSAI Statement About Pesticide Residue In Indian Herbs & Spices

FSSAI issued a statement about pesticide residue in Indian herbs and spices.

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has dismissed reports suggesting that it permits elevated levels of pesticide residues in herbs and spices. Characterizing the reports as “misleading and baseless,” the FSSAI stated in a press release that India maintains rigorous standards for Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) in food items. The FSSAI emphasized that MRLs for pesticides are determined on a commodity-specific basis following thorough risk assessments, positioning India as a global leader in food safety regulation.

Pesticides in India are regulated by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare (MoA and FW) through the Central Insecticide Board and Registration Committee (CIB and RC), which was established under the Insecticide Act of 1968.

The recent ban imposed by the Hong Kong food regulator on certain spice blends from MDH and Everest, two well-known Indian brands, was due to alleged traces of the pesticide Ethylene Oxide found in their samples. Additionally, the Singapore food regulator has issued a recall for one spice product from the Everest brand.

FSSAI Statement About Pesticide Residue In Indian Herbs & Spices

The CIB and RC are responsible for overseeing the production, importation, transportation, and storage of pesticides, with the ability to register, ban, or restrict them as needed. Currently, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is conducting inspections of branded spices, including those from MDH and Everest, that are sold within the country to ensure adherence to quality standards. It is worth noting that FSSAI does not have jurisdiction over the quality of spices that are exported.

The Union health ministry released a statement emphasizing that maximum residue limits for various food products differ based on specific risk assessments.

The ministry refutes claims made by certain media reports regarding the allowance of higher pesticide residue levels in herbs and spices by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), stating them as false and malicious. India upholds some of the most stringent standards for Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) globally. The ministry emphasizes that the process of determining pesticide residue limits involves thorough assessment by FSSAI’s scientific panel on pesticide residues, which evaluates data provided by CIB and RC and recommends MRLs based on risk assessment principles.

Consideration is given to the dietary habits of the Indian population and the health concerns across all age groups. The ministry has stated that pesticides are authorized for use in various food products with varying Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) as per risk assessment data.

For example, Monocrotophos can be used on multiple crops with MRLs set at 0.03 mg/kg for rice, 0.2 mg/kg for citrus fruits, 0.1 mg/kg for coffee beans, and 0.5 mg/kg for cardamom. Additionally, the MRL for Chilli is 0.2 mg/kg.

The maximum residue limit (MRL) of 0.01 mg/kg applies to pesticides without fixed MRLs. However, it was raised to 0.1 mg/kg specifically for spices, and only pertains to pesticides not registered by CIB & RC in India, as stated in the announcement.

The Scientific Panel on Pesticide Residues endorsed this recommendation, which involves gradually adopting Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) ranging from 0.1 mg/kg and higher for spices worldwide. This follows the Codex Alimentarius Commission’s decision on Pesticide Residues for the period of 2021-23.

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