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Organic’: Take that tag with a pinch of salt

Kochi: Don’t get carried away next time when you see vegetables that have been tagged as organic. Food safety officials and agricultural experts say they have found pesticide residues in vegetables branded as organic and sold through shops.
“We have found that chillies, coriander, mint, amaranthus (red spinach), cauliflower and long beans have pesticide residues, be in open market or in the organic shops,” says Thomas Biju Mathew, professor and head, pesticide residue lab, Kerala Agricultural University .
But instead of pushing for punitive action they have resorted to pressure them to come clean. “There is already a qualitative difference,” said Thomas.
“We identified a lot of brands and warned them. They were told that they were pricing it high, labelling the product organic when it had pes ticide residues. The warnings seem to have helped and the residue levels have come down,” said Thomas who is also principal investigator of Safe to Eat Vegetable Scheme of the Government of Kerala.
Out of the 65 types of fruits and vegetables that the state consumes only 20 are cultivated here, making the task of monitoring difficult. “For example, chillies, both green and red are not grown here on a commercial basis,”said Thomas.
Food safety officials say that they can only check the product for pesticide residues. “There is no product identified as organic under the Food Safety Act. We will seize a product if it crosses permissible residue levels,”” said T V Anupama, food safety commissioner.
As of now, there is regular monitoring of vegetable samples from Kasaragod as it has been declared organic district. In other districts the monitoring is random.

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