Second lab report of College of Agriculture, Vellayani

A topping of grated carrot and freshly chopped coriander or mint leaves on your favourite dish looks great and adds to the smell and taste, but it could also spell trouble. The vegetables used for garnishing may be loaded with toxic pesticides, unless they are home-grown.

The second report of the Pesticide Residue Research and Analytical Laboratory at the College of Agriculture, Vellayani, has revealed dangerous levels of pesticide residue in 14 vegetables used by most households. While seven vegetables were found to be low in pesticide content, 38 were listed as safe-to-eat.

The laboratory carried out tests on 260 samples of 59 vegetables collected from retail shops, supermarkets and markets in Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Alappuzha and Kasaragod during the period from April 1 to June 30 this year.

Mint leaf, carrot, curry leaf, green chilly, coriander leaf, green capsicum, cucumber, celery, ladies finger, amaranthus (red and green), eggplant, radish and drum stick were found to be the most contaminated (exceeding the maximum residue limit set by the Food Safety and Standard Authority of India), while tomato, yellow capsicum, red capsicum, ginger, cabbage (violet), cauliflower and long beans were found to have less of pesticide residue.

The samples contained residues of several pesticides including Profenophos, a neurotoxic pesticide banned in Kerala and restricted to tea and cotton in other States.

Interestingly, ivy gourd (kovakka), gooseberry, red onion, tomato, cauliflower, cabbage (white and violet), long beans and capsicum (yellow and red) which were listed as dangerously contaminated in the first report published in June, have made it to the safe- to eat category in the current report, indicating that pesticide safety is becoming a priority for farmers.

The laboratory has taken up periodic analysis of vegetable samples at under a project titled ‘Production and marketing of safe to eat vegetables for sale through government outlets.

Thomas Biju Mathew, Professor and principal investigator of the project, said the pesticide residue level in the dangerously contaminated vegetables was found to be high in samples collected from different outlets. This, he said, indicated that most of these products were sourced from the same place, probably outside Kerala.

“The high-level of profenophos residue in carrot and mint, curry and coriander leaf is a matter of grave concern. It shows that the pesticide is widely misused by vegetable farmers in the neighbouring States.”

The report of the study has been put up on the website of the Public Relations Department, Government of Kerala (www.prd.kerala.gov.in). It also contains information on methods to remove pesticide residue from vegetables using vinegar, salt, water and tamarind paste.