KAU bid involves food safety certification, promotion of homestead horticulture

Kerala Agricultural University (KAU) has embarked on an initiative aimed at ensuring that vegetables and fruits consumed in the State are safe to eat and free of pesticide residue.

The programme, funded by the Department of Agriculture, involves food safety certification, promotion of homestead horticulture, and creating awareness of the hazards of pesticide residue.

The KAU is working on an initial plan to produce and provide pesticide-free vegetables at a premium price for quality-conscious consumers. The Pesticide Residue Research and Analytical Laboratory at the College of Agriculture, Vellayani, will play a key role in the programme.

KAU Vice-Chancellor P. Rajendran said the laboratory had detected pesticide residue in 226 out of 1,024 samples, with 78 samples exceeding the maximum residue limit (MRL). “We are developing and popularising protocols to remove pesticide residue from high-risk vegetables and fruits based on already identified techniques,” he said.

Dr. Rajendran said efforts were afoot to equip the laboratory with more sophisticated instruments to cater to the analytical needs of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and the Departments of Agriculture, Health and Family Welfare, Ground Water Directorate and other research agencies.

S. Nazeemabeevi, who heads the laboratory at Vellayani, said alarming levels of pesticide residue had been detected in cardamom, the key export commodity of the State. “All the samples showed residue and in most cases, the levels exceeded the MRL also. Pesticide residue above the MRL were seen in cabbage, cauliflower, cowpea, and bitter gourd. At least seven common pesticides, including endosulfan, were detected,” she said.

Dr. Nazeemabeevi said the case of curry leaves was a matter of grave concern. “Of the 64 samples analysed, residue was detected in 39. Of the 242 vegetables tested, residue were detected in 79, of which five exceeded the MRL.

More In: Kerala | National