THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Chilli has a special place in our food habits, saving some our favourite dishes from blandness. But there is an unnoticed and dangerous side. According to a report released by the Kerala Agricultural University, the chilli powder we get in attractive packets contains pesticides that harm our health.
The report discovered that various spices and condiments brands have been selling products with heavy pesticide residues. Pesticide Residue Analytical and Research Laboratory of the university found at least four different types of pesticides in samples taken from branded red chilli powder sold at various super markets in Kottayam, Changanassery, Alappuzha, Malappuram and Kasargod.
It was found that chilli powder, chilli long dry, crushed chilli, Kashmiri chilli powder, cumin seed , cumin powder, sambar powder, tea powder etc contain pesticide residue. The pesticide limits prescribed by Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) for food products is not enough to keep the menace away.
From the list mentioned in the university report, food safety officials can take action only against those selling contaminated cardamom because of the specific Maximum Residual Limit (MRL) prescribed for it in the spice and condiments category.
“There has been a delay in expanding the list. Many products we have analysed did not have a MRL prescribed. detailed study is required on poisonous residues found,” said Thomas Biju Mathew, professor and head, PRRAL. The report indicates widespread use of pesticides, finding its way into the food cycle. However, enforcement agencies find themselves helpless with no expansion of the list in the Safety and Standards Rules since 2011.
“MRL limit is fixed after a lot of process. Until the limit is fixed it would be difficult for food safety officials to take action,” said D Sivakumar, Joint Commissioner of Food Safety.
The report has found pesticide residue levels in fruits, vegetables and processed food products. In the vegetable category curry leaves continue to have high pesticide residue. The report found that fruits and cereals collected from market – organic and farm gates – have less pesticide residues.